There is something in the flavor and aroma of the fresh strawberry that no amount of skill has been able to preserve.
E.F. White, “Spring Soda Fountain Thoughts”

Winter is hard on the body because it brings less exercise, fewer fresh foods, more respiratory viruses, and less Vitamin D from sunshine. This makes summer a crucial time for fortifying our health – with its abundance of fresh foods, outdoor time, and sunshine. Our bodies count on the plethora of summer foods to replenish and nourish us. For children, summer nutrients are used to grow and mature.

The majority, around 80 to 100 percent, of our Vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. In fact, Vitamin D is almost completely absent from our food supply. So the sunny days of summer are essential to replenish our waning Vitamin D levels from the past winter and to stock up on Vitamin D for the upcoming winter. More than half of all adults and children in the U.S. are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to cancers, auto-immune diseases, diabetes, chronic muscle pain and heart disease. It also helps treat and prevent osteoporosis, and the body needs Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. Without proper amounts of Vitamin D your body is only able to absorb 10 to 15 percent of the calcium you eat.

Even with the summer and the sun’s rays, our indoor lifestyles and avid use of sunscreens prevent us from getting enough sun exposure to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D. While sunscreens do help protect against skin cancer, they also block 97 percent of your body’s Vitamin D production. So here are some tips to be sure you take full advantage of stocking up on Vitamin D this summer:

Spend time enjoying the sunshine and expose as much skin as possible to direct midday sunlight for about half the time it takes for one’s skin to turn red. Do not get sunburned! Vitamin D production is already maximized before your skin turns pink and further exposure does not increase levels of Vitamin D but may increase your risk of skin cancer.

Add natural sources of Vitamin D to your diet, including:

  • Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil. One tablespoon (15 ml) = 1,360 IU of vitamin D
  • Cooked wild salmon. 3.5 ounces = 360 IU of vitamin D
  • Cooked mackerel. 3.5 ounces = 345 IU of vitamin D
  • Sardines, canned in oil, drained. 1.75 ounces = 250 IU of vitamin D
  • Whole eggs. 1 whole egg = (20) IU of vitamin D
  • Porcini mushrooms. 4 ounces = 400 IU of vitamin D

Have your Vitamin D level checked by your health provider so you know where your levels are at, before and after the summer. A good target level is above 50 ng/ml.

Make sure you are supplementing (if needed) with the right type of Vitamin D. The only active form of Vitamin D is D3 (cholecalciferol). Look for this type when supplementing during the winter months, rather than Vitamin D2, which is not biologically active.

You will also want to take full advantage of the array of fresh, whole foods during the summer. The colorful fruits and vegetables of summer bring more micronutrients, phytonutrients, and antioxidants for cellular repair, as well as mitochondrial fortification and immune system strengthening. You will find greens and avocados in the spring; berries and stone fruit in mid-summer; and tomatoes, peppers and melons in late summer. It’s the perfect time to fortify your body with health and longevity for the entire year – and after all, summertime food just tastes so good.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes for summer:

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About the Author

Angela Hind, M.D.

Dr. Hind practiced traditional Internal Medicine for 17 years. Watching patients suffer under the weight of chronic illnesses such as cancer, Diabetes, and autoimmune disease, she became acutely aware of the inability of the current medical system to prevent and treat the growing epidemic of chronic disease. In 2012 she received additional training in molecular toxicology and Functional Medicine — the personalized approach to preventing and treating disease using diet, toxin avoidance, and stress reduction. In 2014 she opened You, M.D., a consulting firm dedicated to providing accurate information about the intersection between environmental toxins, industrial food and health, for businesses wanting to use health as a guide for societal change.