5 Major Misconceptions on Sun Exposure

Farmer Paul's son Noah enjoying some naked time in the sun!

Farmer Paul’s son Noah enjoying some naked time in the sun!



I’ve gotten into my fair share of friendly discussions with friends and family members about sun exposure. Aside from the many myths and falsities surrounding which foods are and aren’t healthy to consume, this seems to be one of the most widely misunderstood and debated topics out there.

The sun has garnered a pretty a bad wrap in the last decade or so. We are taught to avoid it at all costs. And if we really must venture out into the sun’s dangerous rays of death, we are taught to slather sunscreen all over ourselves so that no patch of skin remains exposed — or risk the possibility of developing skin cancer.

The media has demonized and scrutinized the sun more than Miley Cyrus, turning us into a bunch of overly cautious solar-phobes.

But with sun protection awareness and sunscreen use at an all-time high, one would think that skin cancer rates have declined. Nope. Not even close. On the contrary, skin cancer rates have skyrocketed in recent years, despite people spending more and more time indoors.

So what gives? Where are the gaps in the conventional “wisdom” that we’ve been fed surrounding sun exposure?


Top 5 Sun Exposure Misconceptions

  • #1: You don’t need sun exposure to be healthy. Baloney! Getting adequate amounts of sunlight (for your skin type) is a vital piece of achieving an optimal level of health. And one of the most important benefits it offers is Vitamin D — proven to positively affect everything from happiness level to blood pressure. Low levels of Vitamin D were linked to a higher likelihood of dying from cancer and heart disease in two major recent studies.

    Because exposure to sunlight accounts for 90% of most individuals’ Vitamin D intake, it’s no wonder that 41.6% of adults in the U.S. are deficient in this important vitamin — we aren’t getting anywhere near the amount of sun that we need!

    In addition to providing us with cancer-fighting Vitamin D, the sun’s UVB rays also produce melanin. Melanin acts as an antioxidant and protects us from sun damage by scattering solar radiation across the surface of our skin.

    But there’s a catch. We’re only able to produce certain amounts of melanin (that vary from person to person) at a time — if time spent in the sun exceeds melanin’s ability to protect us, sun damage or sunburn will occur. The upside? It’s possible to take in all of the sun’s natural health benefits without incurring any sort of damage. Individuals with darker skin require greater amounts of sun exposure to get enough Vitamin D, while fair-skinned individuals often times only need a few minutes of sunlight at a time to get adequate levels!

  • #2: Sunscreen will protect you from sun damage. This might be the worst (and most harmful) myth of them all. Yes — sunscreen is great at blocking the UVB rays that cause us to burn (and produce cancer-fighting Vitamin D). But it does almost nothing to protect against the UVA rays that penetrate much deeper than UVB rays, damaging skin cell membranes and the DNA inside. And sunscreens that claim to protect against both UVB and UVA rays simply can’t be trusted. According to Liz Wolfe in her book Eat the Yolks,

    So-called broad-spectrum sunscreens, which claim to protect against both UVB and UVA rays, attempt to combine SPF-based UVB protection with chemicals meant to absorb or disperse UVA rays. However, the Environmental Working Group cautions that broad-spectrum sunscreens sold in the United States are protected according to FDA criteria that are “the weakest in the modern world.” In Europe, broad spectrum sunscreens must provide UVA protection at least one-third as potent as its UVB protection. In the United States, not a single broad-spectrum sunscreen meets even this minimally effective criterion.

    Sunscreen provides us with a false sense of protection by blocking UVB rays (sparing us the temporary discomfort of sunburns) while letting UVA rays penetrate deep into our skin to do the more serious, lasting damage. Sunburns aren’t necessarily the enemy here. Our bodies are equipped with mechanisms to alert us when enough is enough of any given thing. In this case, our skin’s ability to burn is a warning signal for us to get out of the sun.

    And sunscreen gets in the way of that.

    Yet, we’ve been told over and over that using it is the healthy and smart thing to do. So without giving it much thought, we spray ourselves and our children down in misty clouds of chemicals before spending hours upon hours in the sun (and reapplying every 60 minutes, of course). When instead, we should be practicing responsible sun exposure by covering up or retreating to the shade/indoors when our bodies have had enough (more on that later).

  • #3: Sunscreen is 100% safe to use. A few years ago, Banana Boat recalled a number of their popular spray-on sunscreens due to, “the potential risk of product igniting on the skin if contact is made with a source of ignition before the product is completely dry.” In other words, people were literally catching on fire when they used it.

    This is an extreme example. But it does point to the fact that many of the chemicals used in conventional sunscreen are harsh and dangerous. Retinyl Palmitate (a chemical known to cause reproductive toxicity and increase the growth rate of skin tumors) is practically a staple in most sunscreens. Oxybenzone (another common ingredient in sunscreen) is equally destructive, causing hormone disruption and allergic reactions. These harmful ingredients play no part in offering any sort of real sun protection to the user.

  • #4: What you eat does not affect how your body reacts to the sun. Rates of skin cancer (as well as other cancers and diseases) have risen dramatically in the past few decades, “coincidentally” coinciding with the SAD (Standard American Diet) evolving to include more processed foods, an increased use of chemical additives, and a higher consumption of Omega-6 fats like vegetable oil.

    Since taking up a paleo/primal type of diet 3 years ago, sunburns have become a rare occurrence for me (and it wasn’t always that way). Real, natural, and unprocessed foods can do wonders in terms of allowing the skin to burn less and tan better. The following three basic tips can also help to improve the way our bodies respond to the sun:

    1) Consume more Omega-3 and less Omega-6: Healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil are essential to our skin’s tissue regeneration abilities. When these healthy Omega-3 fat sources are not available in our bodies, highly processed Omega-6 fats (canola oil, soybean oil, etc.) will be used instead — potentially leading to cancerous mutations.
    2) Stay away from grains: Grains cause more inflammation in the body than just about anything. Inflammation is known to contribute to the development of cancer. ‘Nuff said.
    3) Eat more antioxidants: Antioxidant-rich foods (like berries and dark chocolate) reduce inflammation in the body. Individuals who don’t consume grains and chemical-laden processed foods on a regular basis will have less inflammation to fight off in the first place, but can still benefit from a diet rich in nutrient-dense antioxidants that help to fight against and prevent cancer-causing free radicals.

  • #5: BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TRUCKER!?

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    It always comes back to the trucker. The picture above shows the face of a man who spent many years driving a delivery truck. The sun-facing side of his face clearly shows an abundance of wrinkles, while the other side appears to be in much better shape. This image has been widely used (and often abused) by dermatologists and sunscreen enthusiasts alike as ammo to encourage society to “wear sunscreen constantly,” as suggested by this article in the Huffington Post.

    But here’s the thing. We’ve already established that overexposure to UVA rays can cause serious skin damage at the DNA level (while UVB rays cause temporary sunburns but also offer many health benefits). There’s no denying that. But similar to how most sunscreens only protect against UVB rays, the same is true for car windows.

    This driver’s car windows were more than likely blocking the UVB rays that would have triggered a sunburn. Without ever getting a sunburn to clue him in, this driver probably had no idea that any sort of UVA-induced sun damage was taking place. Had his windows let UVB rays in as well as UVA rays, he would have also reaped the benefits of Vitamin D and Melanin. It’s a harrowing picture, but the facts behind it present more of a case for responsible sun exposure than anything.


A Smarter Approach to Sun Exposure


I am in no way suggesting that we should practice any sort of wreckless sun worshiping. I am, however, against living in fear of something that offers so many health benefits (and makes us happy). So instead of erring on either extreme, let’s try to be responsible about this whole thing.

Our bodies are much smarter than we give them credit for. It’s time we started listening to them! When we see or feel ourselves starting to burn (and hopefully before that happens), it’s probably a good idea to get out of the sun. Go inside, retreat to the shade, or cover up with a hat or some other article of clothing. For those who have fair skin or aren’t used to getting much sun, take it slow. There’s no need to force an overexposure that could potentially result in serious damage.

It doesn’t take long to learn how much sun your body will be able to handle at a time. Like I said earlier, it may only be a few minutes. Or it may be a few hours — this varies for everyone.

For days when there’s no getting around spending hours upon hours in the sun (family beach days, long hikes, etc.), choose a sunscreen that doesn’t contain dangerous chemicals. My natural DIY sunscreen recipe contains non-nano Zinc oxide (which protects against UVA rays as well as UVB) and other safe ingredients.

Non-nano (or non-micronized) Zinc oxide is made from particles that are too large to be absorbed into the skin and ultimately into the bloodstream — but still offer excellent broad spectrum protection. The downside? Because of the larger particles, it can leave a white pasty film on the skin — not such a bad price to pay in my opinion! Because Zinc oxide blocks virtually EVERYTHING, it also (unfortunately) blocks the cancer-fighting Vitamin D in UVB rays from penetrating the skin — which is why I only use it when I’m outside for extended periods of time.

What’s your stance on sun exposure? What tips and tricks have/haven’t worked for you? Let me know!

Happy Easter! *And 2 Year Anniversary Giveaway*

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Two Easters ago, the guys of Primal Pastures (Tom, Jeff, Paul, and Rob) ordered 50 chicks and started a facebook page with a dream of one day supplying Southern California with the best poultry around.

This first batch of birds sold out before they were even ready to be processed. And by the time they were ready, we had accumulated over 100 additional customers on our wait list. The demand for healthy, pastured poultry was greater than we could have ever imagined. We were so excited for what was to come and are now extremely grateful to be where we are today.

Since starting our little farm in 2012, the following things have happened:

  • Launched a kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $40,000 that would go towards adding additional types of animals to our inventory for you and your families to enjoy. Because of YOU, we were able to exceed our kickstarter goal and raise a whopping $57,810!
  • In addition to chickens, we began raising egg-laying hens as well as sheep and turkeys (and also began offering beef and pork from Standing Bar G Productions and Cook Pigs Ranch).
  • Started implementing Breakfast on the Farm events for people who share an interest in pastured meats to come together and mingle, meet the farmers, and enjoy a delicious two-course meal (all while watching animals grazing on the pasture).
  • Began offering farm tours for individuals and families to witness with their own eyes the superior quality of life that our animals are provided with (and learn many interesting tid-bits and facts about the numerous benefits of pastured eggs and meats)!
  • Expanded our product list to include Primal Bread as well as raw, local, organic, unfiltered honey, and more deliciously primal yummies!

Although much has changed in the last two years, our goals haven’t. We are still 100% committed to helping you and your families lead more healthy lifestyles based on God and nature’s brilliant design. And this blog is an extension of that. This blog is for you. It’s one more resource that can help you discover ways to grow in health and wellness (and get to know all of us better)!

And it’s a way for us to say thank you for your support over the last two years! But we also want to say thank you by giving away a bunch of free stuff — $500 worth of…

  • T-shirts
  • Tote Bags
  • Aprons
  • Stickers
  • Farm Tours
  • Workshop Tickets
  • Breakfast on the Farm Tickets
  • Gift Cards to our Online Store

The catch? Sign up to receive free weekly From the Pasture email updates and comment on a post. That’s it! Easy right?

Sign up and comment anytime this week to win — we will randomly select the winners on Monday, April 28.

We hope that you will give us the chance to get to know you through this blog. And more importantly, we hope that you will all have a very HAPPY EASTER!

-The Primal Pastures Family

Breakfast on the Farm 4/12/14

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Breakfasts on the Farm are always a blast! And this last one was no exception.

Primal Pastures puts on a Breakfast on the Farm every couple of months. It’s an awesome opportunity for like-minded folks to come together, watch animals graze, visit with one another, and enjoy a two-course meal cooked from delicious, locally sourced, real food (some of which is raised right on the farm where the breakfast takes place)!

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Chef Jamie (my sister in-law) is the mastermind behind this whole event. I am always in awe of her natural ability to create gourmet food without even trying (I was definitely not blessed with those same talents). Before the breakfast, I managed to sneak in bites of some of the dishes she was preparing and they all sent my taste buds on a roller coaster of pleasure. Our guests were equally enthused.

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Chef Jamie’s first dish was paleo pancakes served with bacon crumbles and sauteed bananas drizzled with maple syrup. They were unreal. After many attempts at shooting a good picture of them, I threw in the towel. None of them did the pancakes justice.

The second dish consisted of sweet potato & vegetable hash served under pastured beef chorizo topped with two farm-fresh eggs over medium. Also incredibly delicious!

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We had about 16 guests in attendance at this breakfast — all wonderful people! Primal Pastures has the best customers in the world. We always have so much fun getting to know them better at this event. Among the many fun and interesting peeps on the guest list were Kim and Amanda, the women behind Paleo Schmaleo. These girls are awesome. And they have an equally awesome instagram account where they sift through (and try out) the best paleo recipes out there, making it easy for you to navigate through the surplus of paleo resources, blogs, and cookbooks.

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After breakfast, we gave anyone who was interested a complimentary farm tour. They couldn’t wait to hit up our farm stand afterwards to take home some yummy pastured meats!

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From the Primal Pastures family, a huge thank you to everyone who attended Breakfast on the Farm this past weekend. We had the best time meeting you all and hope to meet many more of you soon!

(From left to right) Top Row: Farmer Tom, Farmer Jeff, Farmer Rob, Chef Jamie, Farmer Paul (with future Farmer Noah) Bottom Row: Debbie (Farmer Tom's wife), Me (Bethany), Liz (Farmer Rob's wife), and Lynsey (Farmer Paul's wife)

(From left to right) Top Row: Farmer Tom, Farmer Jeff, Farmer Rob, Chef Jamie, Farmer Paul (with future Farmer Noah)
Bottom Row: Debbie (Farmer Tom’s wife), Me (Bethany), Liz (Farmer Rob’s wife), and Lynsey (Farmer Paul’s wife)

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Free Range Eggs (And What to Do Instead)

Eggs

We all know that factory farming practices are bad. Really bad.

Most chickens are raised in big production houses and are confined to an area the size of an oven for their entire life. These poor birds are also pumped full of cheap grain feed to fatten them up as quickly as possible. As a result, their legs are often unable to support their body weight and break under the strain of the extreme load. They’re often injected with antibiotics that sturdy up the legs and allow them to survive to six weeks. At this point, they’re processed for production, wrapped in plastic, sold to you at the grocery store, and fed to your families.

None of this is news to you. Knowing full well the inhumane and downright disgusting practices of factory farms, you probably pay close attention to labels when purchasing eggs from the grocery store:

Labels like…  “Free Range”   “Organic”   “Hormone-Free”   “Antibiotic-Free”

 Think these words somehow make your eggs more healthy, humane, and natural? Think again.  Most of the token labels that you’ve been paying $3 + more for per dozen mean absolutely nothing. 

 

Organic Shmorganic

The term organic simply means that the chickens’ feed has been certified by a government agency to contain no unnatural fertilizers or pesticides. However, the chickens may still be living their lives stacked two-high in a feed house, defecating on one another in a life of chicken misery.

Most of these big-box chickens are de-beaked, a process that involves half of the beak of each chicken being chopped off.  This prevents the chickens from resorting to the cannibalism and suicide that occurs as a result of living under such cruel conditions. These behaviors aren’t difficult to imagine. Chickens were designed to pick and scratch for their entire lives.

 

What about free range?

This certification has been widely abused throughout the poultry community.  One might think the term should mean that the birds have room to explore, play, and forage. But this has come to mean something entirely different.

Take that same feed house from the previous few paragraphs, cut a little hole in the wall, and it’s suddenly considered “free range.”  These chickens are considered free range because they have the “option” to explore  (even if the feed house is surrounded by dirt and the chickens literally never go outside to act like chickens).  You may want to rethink paying the extra $5 for this “upgrade” the next time you’re at the supermarket.

 

Hormone + Antibiotic Free

The phrase “hormone free” is a convincing selling point for store bought eggs. But that’s all it is – a term to make you believe that the product you are purchasing is superior to others.

In the United States, it’s actually illegal for commercial egg-laying hens to be given hormones — for good reason. But I can’t blame any company for bragging about the “hormone-free” status of their product as most people have no idea this is an industry standard.

Antibiotics are another story. According to USpoultry.gov,

“Antibiotic-free claims on egg cartons can be only be made by egg producers who choose not to use any antibiotics in feed or water during the growing period of pullets or while hens are laying eggs. Flocks producing certified organic eggs must be antibiotic free by regulation.”

Although this label does carry more weight than it’s “hormone-free” cousin, it still doesn’t count for much. If a chicken’s living conditions necessitate the need for disease-preventing antibiotics, you can bet that chicken is far from living on a pasture with plenty of space to roam and forage.

 

The Solution

Yes, Primal Pastures does sell eggs. But this post isn’t an advertisement for them (though our eggs are amazing).

Instead, I (we) would rather you raise them yourself. Seriously! It’s not as difficult as you might think.

That being said, we have definitely had our share of “learning experiences” in raising hens for eggs (detailed post coming soon), but the reward has been more than worth it. We’re even working on a few projects to keep you from making some of the mistakes we’ve made in trying to  raise egg-laying birds as efficiently and effectively as possible (sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know)!

Aside from buying pasture-raised eggs from your local farmer, raising them yourself is really the only other option if you aren’t into supporting inhumane farming practices and feeding antibiotic infested chicken eggs raised on grains and soy to you and your family. By raising your own eggs, you can guarantee that they will be…

  • Beyond Organic
  • Truly Free Range
  • Free of hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals
  • More nutrient-dense (note the rich color of the pastured egg above)

Plus, it’s fun! With hens laying eggs in your own backyard, every day feels like Easter (minus the candy overload). You’ll be providing yourself and your family with the best possible source of eggs available. And saving a ton of money! Give it a try – what do you have to lose?

Have you already started raising your own egg-layers? If so, how’s it going??