With the summer sun upon us, it’s a great time to think about getting outside for your daily dose of vitamin D. The long, grey winters here in the Pacific Northwest puts us at a much higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. And not getting enough of this critical nutrient has been linked to many diseases including osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes and various forms of cancer.
The reason vitamin D deficiency is so common is simple: it’s one of the only nutrients that is difficult to get from diet alone. So, the best way to get the recommended daily intake of vitamin D is exposure to the sun’s rays, which causes the body to produce vitamin D naturally.
Why vitamin D is so important to your health
- Bone Formation: Vitamin D increases bone absorption of calcium from the gut. Without sufficient Vitamin D, the body actually pulls calcium and phosphorus from the bones into the blood, leading to demineralized and weak bones.
- Immune Function: Vitamin D helps the immune system work as it should. A study on Finnish men proved that people with lower levels of vitamin D suffered more respiratory infections compared to those who had higher levels.
- Heart Attack & Stroke: There is growing evidence that vitamin D can help with blood pressure and artery damage, both factors that contribute to heart disease.
- Cancers: Many studies suggest that living in northern, less-sunny climates presents a higher risk of ovarian, breast and prostate cancers.
3 Great Spots to get Your Dose of Vitamin D
Lucky for us, there are several great places to enjoy the sun (when we get it, that is). Here are three of our favorites:
- Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park: This 87-acre park is a beautiful place to soak up some rays while taking in the gorgeous views of the Olympic Mountains. Recent projects have restored the northern beach and two wetlands, making it an amazing place to get some exercise with a walk or a jog along the forest trails or coastlines.
- Mt. Rainier National Park: Located just an hour outside of Seattle, this park is a fantastic place to enjoy a sunny hike. And spend time around an active volcano! Try a day hike on part of the Wonderland Trail. Or, if you have a little more time, push yourself to complete the full 93-mile loop. Paradise, the area at 5400 ft., is known for its wildflower meadows and scenic views. For those who are a little less adventurous, however, there’s camping and lodging available.
- Powell Butte Nature Park: This sun-filled Portland sun spot is full of trails for walking, jogging, biking and even horseback riding. There are some great picnic areas, so pack a healthy lunch to enjoy while taking in the views of the mountains and the Willamette River. There’s also tons of wildlife. So have your camera ready – you may get to see a rabbit, a fox or a deer.