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One of the best things about summer is the season’s long, sunny days. Although too much sun can be harmful, experts say spending 10 to 20 minutes a day in direct sunshine has health benefits.

Like plants, humans absorb and metabolize solar energy. When sunlight reaches the skin, our bodies begin producing vitamin D, a crucial ingredient for overall health.

Vitamin D stimulates the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphorus, leading to stronger bones and a reduced risk for osteoporosis. New research suggests bone health is also improved by proper levels of vitamin D-3, a byproduct of the body’s vitamin D production.

Improved vision and eye health are also linked to vitamin D, and researchers believe the nutrient is necessary for proper function of the body’s T cells, which are the immune system’s first line of defense in fighting infection.

A recent study found that when sunlight touches the skin, a substance called nitric oxide is releases into blood vessels helping to lower blood pressure. Sunlight also increases serotonin levels, promoting feelings of happiness. Plus, serotonin helps regulate your appetite, which can aid in weight loss.

Exposure to the sun’s rays in the morning has been linked to improved sleep at night.

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