9 Vitamin D Health Benefits (Yes, Even Weight Loss!)

Vitamin D benefits for women including weight loss: You can fight breast cancer, weight gain, and more with vitamin D. Here’s how to get the most out of this miracle nutrient.

You probably already know that vitamin D can help build strong teeth and bones, but vitamin D has a plethora of health benefits you probably don’t know about. Vitamin D can keep off extra pounds, boost your mood, ward off colds, reduce your risk of cancer, and more.

That’s great news, right? Yes, except for the fact that more than one-third of all women fail to get enough vitamin D for healthy bones, and more than three-quarters of women lack the higher amounts of vitamin D needed to benefit from its disease-fighting powers.

Vitamin D: Think, “Milk & Sunshine”

milk sunshine vitamin d

No, that’s not the name of a 60’s folk duo, it’s the two best ways to get vitamin D every day. While a daily glass of milk is good, sunlight is even better, but we’re not getting enough. Our bodies produce vitamin D with exposure to ultraviolet radiation, but as we’ve started slathering on sunscreen to ward off skin cancer, we’re getting less vitamin D.

Here are our top 9 vitamin D health benefits:

1. Vitamin D Lowers the Risk of Cancer

Vitamin D may substantially cut the risk of a number of common cancers including breast, prostate, colon, and ovarian cancer. Scientists believe that Vitamin D helps regulate genes in a way that protects healthy cells and stops the growth of cancerous ones.

There are receptors for vitamin D in most of our body’s cells, and to feed them you need an adequate level of vitamin D in your blood. Getting enough vitamin D depends not only on how much time you’re in the sun, but also where you live. People in higher latitudes get fewer UVB rays, especially in the Winter, which means they’re more likely to have low blood levels of vitamin D and a higher risk of cancer.

In fact, studies have shown rates of death from colon cancer to be up to 50% higher in the far North compared to the sunnier South.

2. Fight Off Winter Weight Gain

Did you know that Vitamin D can help you lose weight?

More indoor time and fewer hours of sunlight can lead to a decrease in vitamin D production for many women. This may explain why a lot of women gain weight in colder weather. Lower levels of vitamin D can cause a drop in leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite.

When this happens, your brain may not send the signal that you’re full and should stop eating. Overweight/obese women are especially at risk because excess fat can absorb vitamin D, making its health benefits unavailable to the rest of the body. Losing those few stubborn pounds may be as easy as getting enough sunlight each day!

*Related: 50% Off Weight Watchers Special!

3. Vitamin D Benefits Your Heart Health

Vitamin D is thought to help lower blood pressure and regulate hormones that affect blood vessels and the muscles of the heart. Studies suggest that people with the highest vitamin D levels may have up to a 50% lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

4. Vitamin D Fights Seasonal Depression

blonde woman sunshine
Photo credit: Julia Caesar via unsplash

Low levels of vitamin D seem to also be linked to seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression more common in the North. Researchers believe that vitamin D helps keep the brain flush with serotonin, the “happy hormone” that regulates our mood. Vitamin D also seems to offer brain-health benefits for everyone from developing infants to senior citizens. So, stay away from that depressing blue light of your phone, and get some real sunlight!

5. Vitamin D Boosts Defenses Against Cold & the Flu

Research shows that colds and the flu increase as when levels of vitamin D decrease, especially in the Winter and in countries at higher latitudes. Research seems to confirm that keeping your levels of vitamin D high may significantly reduce your risk of catching that cold or bug that’s going around the office. Some scientists have even started calling Vitamin D, the “antibiotic vitamin.”

6. Vitamin D Can Prevent Autoimmune Disorders

Vitamin D seems to interact in a protective way with genes that increase the risk of diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating nerve disease that strikes mostly young women. Studies suggest that vitamin D may also help prevent other autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s disease.

Even in healthy women, low levels of vitamin D can lead to increased inflammation, a negative response of the immune system. *Related: Nutrisystem Bad Reviews?

7. Vitamin D Benefits Your Bones

The work that vitamin D does with calcium to keep bones healthy might be old news, but it’s no less important, especially for women. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, Osteoporosis and fractures resulting from bone weakness affect up to half of all women.

While most women turn to calcium for help, it may be vitamin D that they really need first for the calcium to be effective. Vitamin D helps your body absorb minerals like calcium and phosphorus that increase bone strength.

How Much Daily Sun Exposure is Healthy?

older women on beach sun
Photo Credit: Adam Birkett via Unsplash

OK, so how much sunlight is healthy without overdoing it? For each minute you spend in peak Summer sunlight, your body can produce about 1,000 IU of vitamin D. That’s as much vitamin D as 10 glasses of milk!

So, in short, a little bit of UVB exposure can go a long way. In fact here’s how much sun exposure you’ll need a day without sunscreen to get enough vitamin D:

  • Fair complexion: 5-10 minutes
  • Medium complexion: 15-20 minutes
  • Darker complexion: 20-30 minutes

Of course, use your own judgment if you feel those numbers don’t work for you, and ask your doctor if you have any questions. While sun-related issues like skin cancer are obviously a concern, don’t forget the myriad of health benefits you’ll get from getting enough vitamin D.