Just like everyone else, it's important for vegans to get enough vitamin D. But can vegans get enough vitamin D? Are there any vegan foods rich in vitamin D? Keep reading to learn more, and share this blog post with someone who needs it!
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids (a type of steroid) that helps the body absorb and retain important nutrients like calcium, phosphate, and magnesium.
Vitamin D is important for building strong bones, muscle contraction, and nerve conduction. That’s why people who aren’t getting enough vitamin D suffer from weak and brittle bones, fatigue, and slow wound healing.
Vitamin D overdose and deficiency are both equally fatal. According to the FSSAI, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is 400 to 600 IU (international unit). For perspective, 1 microgram is equivalent to 40 IU.
For adults over the age of 70, the RDA is 800 IU.
According to the FSSAI, sufficient levels are between 20 and 30 ng/ml, while the upper safe limit is 60 ng/ml.
Vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation in the body.
It also helps our muscles work efficiently and it gives us more energy throughout the day!
Vitamin D can be obtained from our diets or it can be made in the body when sunlight hits your skin. When that happens, our bodies convert cholesterol into vitamin D. Isn’t that amazing?
According to Yale Medicine, vitamin D derived from sunlight is no better than the vitamin D from supplements. Either one makes for a superior source of vitamin D.
In places where people live with limited sunlight, populations have insufficient levels overall, and thus a supplement is the best source of vitamin D.
Very few foods actually contain vitamin D. As a result, some foods are fortified with vitamin D and other essential nutrients. But the most reliable way to get vitamin D is through a supplement or adequate sun exposure.
Unfortunately for vegans and vegetarians, the best foods for naturally occurring vitamin D levels are animal products like fish, eggs, and meat.
Vegan foods rich with vitamin D include:
As you can see, the food options are very limited!
As a group, vegans are at an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency. Why? Animal products such as eggs, meat, and fish are sources of vitamin D.
However, a vitamin D deficiency is easy to prevent for vegans and vegetarians. Ample sunlight exposure, consuming fortified foods, and supplementation are all fast & easy ways to avoid becoming deficient in vitamin D.
Few people know that vitamin D supplements come in two different forms: vitamin D2 and D3.
The main difference between these two forms is their source. Vitamin D3 is sourced from animals, and vitamin D2 is sourced from plants. Therefore, vitamin D3 is not vegan, while vitamin D2 is vegan.
Vegans who are unable to get enough vitamin D through sun exposure or fortified foods should supplement, just like everyone else!
If you are relying on sunlight for vitamin D, you need about 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight several times per week. If not, the safest, easiest, and most reliable form is a dietary supplement.
To enhance absorption of vitamin D naturally, take vitamin D supplements with foods that are high in fats like oils, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Given that India is a very sunny country, how is it that so many people are deficient in vitamin D?
One study has found that around 76% of Indians are deficient in vitamin D, with those aged from 18 to 30 at the greatest risk.
There could be a few reasons why vitamin D deficiency in India is so rampant, despite the abundance of sunlight. More and more people are spending more time indoors, with urbanisation and modernisation being key drivers.
Another reason is that people are covering their skin when they go outside. In addition to that, people with darker complexions don’t produce vitamin D as easily as people with lighter complexions, so covering the skin would prevent the body's natural production of vitamin D.
If you are receiving too much vitamin D, symptoms include but aren’t limited to:
If you aren’t getting enough vitamin D, you could experience the following:
Vegans can purchase nutritional & vitamin d supplements from the following brands:
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, check out some of our other blog posts on vegan nutrition & plant-based health: