And the simple “salad cure” that can help you head it off at the pass
As an unapologetic sun seeker, summer is hands down my favorite time of the year.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ll never advocate slathering on baby oil (or sunscreen, for that matter) and baking in the sun like the old days. Skin cancer is still a very real risk of excessive sun exposure. In fact, it’s the No. 1 cause! So common sense is always required, especially when the rays are at their highest and hottest.
But I’ve long thought that the hysteria around avoiding the sun has gotten a little out of hand. And the fact is, people are missing out on one of the most abundant natural sources of life-saving vitamin D because of it.
That said, the sun giveth…and the sun taketh away. At least, that was the conclusion of a recent study from Spanish researchers published earlier this year. Their findings shine a spotlight on how summer sunshine can actually sap your body of another essential nutrient.
Triple the risk from winter to summer
Researchers analyzed more than 100,000 blood samples from hospital patients in Malaga. And they found that levels of the B-vitamin folate were low in every season except winter.
During the summer, in particular, the risk of folate deficiency was a whopping 37 percent higher.
Ultimately, levels of this critical B-vitamin had an inverse relationship to total solar ultraviolet radiation, according to the season. In other words, the more sunshine a patient got, the more their folate levels dropped.
Here’s why that matters: Folate is essential for keeping levels of homocysteine in check and protecting your heart health. It also boosts your mood and slashes cancer risk. Plus, your body needs folate to generate energy and produce blood cells, among other basic functions.
So clearly, any increased risk of deficiency is a big problem for your health.
Fortunately, the solution is simple: Increase your folate intake during the summer.
But whatever you do, don’t reach for fortified bread, cereal, or orange juice to do it. There’s simply no reason to consume that garbage when you have unfettered access to fresh, dark green leafy vegetables, which are by far your best sources of folate.
And if you really want to keep your bases covered, you can take a folic acid supplement, too. I generally recommend 5 mg daily, year-round, which you can find as part of any good B-complex vitamin online or at your local supplement shop.
Valencia-Vera E, et al. “Association between seasonal serum folate levels and ultraviolet radiation.” J Photochem Photobiol B. 2019 Jan;190:66-71.