A person online was asking about the ZEN Beach Diet and said “does it involve laying on the beach in the sun?” I think they were trying to be funny but it may have shocked them a little when I replied, “absolutely it does!!”
Many people are really not aware of the importance of sunlight and light generally, when it comes to their health. It is actually critical for both physical and mental health and should be a regular part of your lifestyle. That is, if your health is important to you.
Here are some of the benefits of sun exposure:
UVB is needed by the skin to convert cholesterol to vitamin D
(Vitamin D is necessary for Calcium absorption, so the sun supports healthy bones & teeth)
Assists with depression
Reduced incidence of cancer
Daylight stimulates our ability to use oxygen for energy production
Anti stress effect
Regenerates thymus gland (responsible for white T cell formation to fight infection)
Supports glucose metabolism
So then without adequate sunlight and daylight, excess melatonin is produced in the body which makes the brain sluggish, turns off thyroid and progesterone production, and suppresses immunity and fertility.
How much do you need?
The rule of thumb is 10 minutes full skin exposure on both sides. So 20 minutes all up.
However shorter sessions of only a few seconds of bright light throughout the day is said to stop the formation of free radical chain reactions. Short bursts are probably better too for reducing skin aging.
Importance for health
Sun exposure is an important factor in the line up for optimal health. It is a prime example of how all the factors work together holistically to create health. You can be eating the perfect diet but if you live in a place where it is dark for 6 months, all of the necessary reactions can’t happen in the body to support the other great things you are doing.
For example: you could be eating all your dairy for calcium but then not absorbing it without the Vitamin D from the sun.
If you live in such a place and can’t get daily sun, investing in a red light is highly recommended as a substitute.
Story – Heading to the sun
Over 20 years ago, before I knew about Ray Peat and this health stuff, I actually moved from Geelong, Victoria to sunny Queensland where it is warm like Hawaii – specifically for the warmth and sun. Geelong is cold for 9 out of 12 months of the year. It was overcast and cloudy most days. I could tell it affected my mental health, as I would stay curled up in bed not wanting to get up because it was cold and dark. I wasn’t motivated to do much, and didn’t really have a great outlook on life.
Where as in Queensland the sun shines 95% of the time whether it is summer or winter. When you wake up every morning to bright sunlight streaming in your window, you bound out of bed ready to walk or work or just take on the world, bursting with optimism. The difference is profound.
ZEN Beach Diet
Knowing that it takes more than just diet and exercise is the reason I named my program the ZEN Beach Diet. It’s a whole list of healthy actions you do daily to create a lifestyle that supports optimal health. Essentially like being on the most fabulous beach holiday where you relax and enjoy, and get healthy in the stress-free process.
Thanks to Adrian Alford Photography for the images!
NB: Some great articles to read quoting Ray Peat on the importance of sunlight: