Five ways to boost your health this summer

It looks like summer might finally be here in the UK. Getting outside in the sun has so many benefits, but how can you make the most of them. Read on for 5 tips for getting the most out of your time outdoors.

1: Hold off the sunscreen for 10 minutes

Vitamin D is absolutely key so many body processes (in fact it could more rightly be called a hormone rather than a vitamin), it is essential we ensure we top up our vitamin D levels during the summer while we can. But applying sunscreens may reduce your ability to produce vitamin D. The amount of vitamin D we make from the sun depends on a heap of factors such as, our age, our skin colour, the time of day, where in the world we are, if we carry excess body fat, how much skin is exposed and whether we are standing up or lying down. If you’re going on holiday somewhere sunny, protecting yourself from the sun is really important and the greater sun strength and longer time in the sun means you’ll likely make plenty of vitamin D over the holiday, but during the rest of the summer, while you’re in the UK, you might want to try to get some sun on your skin without sunscreen for a few minutes every day…not enough to burn of course. In the UK, around 10-20 minutes of sun exposure during the middle part of the day will be enough to make around 500 to 2000IU of vitamin D (depending on the factors I mentioned above).

2: Choose mineral based sunscreen

The chemicals in sunscreens will be absorbed at least to some extent through the skin and enter the bloodstream. All chemicals entering the body will have to be processed and removed, this work is taken on largely by the liver. At the same time as dealing with the chemicals from sunscreen, your liver has to process chemicals from food, chemicals you inhale, medications and chemicals you make yourself (hormones and other body chemicals have to be removed too). Loading up your liver with too much work might be a problem for some people. What’s more, the long-term safety of sunscreens is still not clear as they are a relatively recent addition to our lifestyles. Luckily there are sunscreens that use minerals (such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) rather than chemicals.

3: Don’t put the sunglasses on too early in the morning

Receiving full-spectrum daylight into our eyes daily is as important (or maybe even more important) than getting the sun on our skin. When full-spectrum light enters your eyes, it triggers activity in the brain which can impact your whole body. Perhaps most important is that receiving full spectrum daylight ensures our body clock is running correctly so that we can sleep well at night and have energy for activities during the day. If you struggle with sleep, be sure to leave off the sunglasses at least first thing in the morning.

4: Marinade your barbecue meats

Summer is time for barbecues! But cooking meat at high temperatures so it chars creates a host of toxic chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Maillard reaction products such as acrylamide (AA) or advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). The higher the temperature and longer the cooking time, the more of these toxins are created. These chemicals have been implicated in increasing the risk of cancer. You can stil enjoy your barbecue however by making some simple changes in your cooking.

  • Use a marinade: marinading your meat in a variety of different types of marinade, including vinegar or lemon juice, or even beer) has been shown to reduce how many of these harmful compounds are formed

  • Add herbs and spices to the meat: these flavoursome additions have the benefits of also being antioxidants and have been shown to reduce the amount of AGEs that are formed in cooking

  • Don’t overcook your meat…take it off the barbecue as soon as it is cooked through.

5: Ramp up the salad and hold the bun

Eating a wide variety of vegetables is well known to be really beneficial for our gut bugs. Salads are a great way of including lots of different types of vegetable into your diet. A massive mixed salad or lots of different salads: either will do the job. Aim to have at least half of your plate filled with non-starchy vegetables. And do you really need a bun with your burger or other barbecue food? The reasons why highly refined wheat flour used to make the bun might not be the most healthy choice are the subject of another post, but for now…just ask yourself if it is really necessary?

6: Bonus tip: use the good weather to increase your exercise!

Getting outdoors and simply walking or gardening is free, doesn’t need a subscription or a class booked, what better time to move those muscles?