By Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D. for YouBeauty.com
If you're reading this, you're probably low in vitamin D.
That's because research shows the majority of Americans have much lower levels of vitamin D than is recommended thanks to a lack of ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun -- the best source of the vitamin.
And not getting enough has its health drawbacks. Vitamin D is needed for a healthy immune system as well as proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus -- two minerals that are crucial to bone health. In addition, vitamin D may contribute to promotion of brain and heart health, as well as a healthy weight, and may even play a role in preventing certain cancers.
Bottom line: Vitamin D is hot right now and a lot of us are turning to a hot source to get it -- the sun. While soaking in the sun may seem like a great idea when you're young, it can fast forward the aging process by promoting wrinkles. What's more, sun exposure can increase your risk for developing skin cancer.
Lucky for you, there are a few foods that not only are great sources of vitamin D, but they can improve your beauty as well. Here are my four favorites:
In addition to providing more than 100 percent of your vitamin D requirements for the day, this fatty fish is chockfull of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help combat dry skin and hair. Other good fish sources containing vitamin D include sardines, cod liver oil and tuna. More from YouBeauty.com: QUIZ: Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? 10 Myths About Vitamin Supplements QUIZ: How Healthy Is Your Skin? Flickr photo by Conrad and Peter
Enjoying a glass of juice at breakfast or any time of day delivers about one-third of your daily vitamin D requirements, along with 100 percent of your vitamin C requirements. Vitamin C strengthens collagen in the body -- a key component in slowing the rate of aging in the skin. Flickr photo by Mervi Emilia Eskelinen
Most yogurts provide up to 20 percent of your vitamin D for the day. In addition, yogurt contains probiotics -- "good" bacteria found in the body that aid digestive health and decrease bloating. That means having some yogurt as a snack will not only help you get in some D for the day, but may also flatten your tummy for a date that night. Look for yogurts that have "live and active" cultures in them to be sure you're getting the most bang for your vitamin D buck.
Starting your day off with a healthy breakfast cereal is the perfect way to attain at least 25 percent of your daily vitamin D dose. Whole grain cereals are also high in filling fiber, which can help you manage your weight. Check the labels on your favorite cereals to ensure that they're fortified with vitamin D. More from YouBeauty.com: QUIZ: Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? 10 Myths About Vitamin Supplements QUIZ: How Healthy Is Your Skin?
In addition to these food choices, many people take a vitamin D supplement as well. Check with your physician to see if this option is right for you. And the next time you consider a sunscreen-free day as a way to "get in your daily dose of vitamin D," try reaching for one of these tasty, beauty-boosting foods instead.
For more on diet and nutrition, click here.
For more on beauty and skin, click here.