The best natural source of vitamin D is when skin is exposed to the sun’s UVB rays. However, balancing sun safety and vitamin D requirements can be tricky, as UVB rays cause sunburn and increase skin cancer risk. It’s good to check the UV index before you go outside to determine the level of sun protection you need. In Australia you should not go outside without sun protection if the UV level is above 3. Examples of sun protection can include using sunscreen, or wearing a hat, sunglasses or clothing that covers your skin.
You can find the UV level by going to the Bureau of Meteorology’s website
and clicking on the weather forecast for your location – the bottom of each day’s listing will contain details about the UV level. The free SunSmart app can also provide information relevant to your current location.
In summer, people with fair skin can obtain adequate vitamin D levels by spending 5–10 minutes in the sun between 10 am and 2 pm. In winter, you might need to spend up to half an hour outdoors during the middle of the day, if you live in southern Australian states or territories.
For those with darker skin it can be more difficult to obtain adequate vitamin D from the sun – about 3–6 times more sun exposure is needed.
As described previously, small amounts of vitamin D can also be obtained from food such as oily fish and eggs, but food can only make up a small portion of your daily requirement.
Some people may not be able to spend enough time in the sun or may not be able to produce vitamin D easily. Health professionals may recommend vitamin D supplements after considering individual circumstances, including whether vitamin D deficiency is present and how severe it is.