Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin required for good health, is best obtained by exposure to sunlight.
It aids in the body’s absorption of calcium and ensures sufficient serum concentrations of magnesium and phosphate, both of which are crucial for healthy teeth, muscles, and bones. It’s also essential for growing brains, healthy hearts, strong immune systems, and balanced psyches.
Worldwide, people suffer from widespread vitamin D deficiency. Exhaustion, aching muscles, brittle bones, and, in children, short stature are all signs of a deficit (1Trusted Source, 2).
Children aged 1-13 years old require 600 IU (15 mcg) of vitamin D daily, whereas infants and toddlers need only 400 IU (10 mcg) daily to maintain appropriate levels. Those who are adults, pregnant, or breastfeeding should go for 600 IU (15 mcg) daily (2).
However, only a small number of foods contain this vitamin, and most of those are found in animal products. As a result, it might be challenging to get enough of this mineral from your diet, especially if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Additionally, there are a few foods and methods that can provide a boost.
Here are six vegetarian and vegan-friendly options for getting your vitamin D.
When your skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, it creates vitamin D. The vast majority of people obtain part of their vitamin D this way.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that ideal vitamin D levels can be produced by spending 5-30 minutes in the sun twice weekly without sunscreen on your face, arms, legs, or back (3Trusted Source).
It may not be possible to get this much sun exposure in some parts of the world or certain climates.
Your skin’s ability to synthesise vitamin D is also affected by your age, skin colour, and the usage of sunscreen, as well as the season, time of day, and amount of pollution or smog (2).
Smog or cloudy weather, for instance, can block as much as 60 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It’s also possible that older folks and people with darker skin tones need more than 30 minutes of sun exposure to make enough vitamin D. (3Trusted Source).
Still, there is a correlation between sun exposure and the development of skin cancer. As a result, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that patients not get all of their vitamin D from sunlight (4Trusted Source).
When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, mushrooms produce vitamin D. This distinguishes them as the sole vitamin D-containing plant food (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
For instance, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of wild mushrooms or those artificially exposed to UV light might contain anywhere from 154 IU (3.8 mcg) to 1,136 IU (28 mcg) of vitamin D. (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
The vitamin D content also remains high throughout their shelf life and they appear to be just as effective as vitamin D supplements at increasing vitamin D levels in the body (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
However, as most commercially available mushrooms are produced in the dark and not exposed to UV radiation, they probably don’t have very much vitamin D. (14Trusted Source).
When you’re out shopping, keep an eye out for the vitamin D content label. If you can’t find any UV-exposed mushrooms, try looking for wild varieties at your neighbourhood health food store or farmer’s market.
Don’t assume that every mushroom you find in the wild is safe to eat. Toxic ones can cause anything from a little stomach upset to organ failure and death if ingested. Thus, unless you have had extensive training, you shouldn’t go out mushroom hunting on your own (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, though the amount varies widely depending on the chicken’s diet and exposure to sunlight.
Examples include eggs from hens fed vitamin-D-enriched diet, which can contain as much as 6,000 IU (150 mcg) per yolk, as opposed to the 18-39 IU (0.4-1 mcg) seen in eggs from chicks fed regular feed (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
Similarly, free-range hens have been shown to produce eggs with three to four times the amount of vitamin D found in eggs produced from confined birds (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
In general, the vitamin D content of free-range or organic eggs is higher. Eggs may be labelled as “enriched” with this nutrient if they’ve been added to the production process.
Despite its low vitamin D content, cheese is a naturally occurring food supply.
The average 2-ounce (50-gram) serving of most kinds has 8-24 IU (0.2-0.6 mcg) of vitamin D. The manufacturing process of the cheese affects the final concentration.
In comparison to Fontina, Monterey, and Cheddar, mozzarella falls short. Vitamin D is scarce in soft cheeses like cottage, ricotta, and cream cheese (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
Vitamin D may be added to certain varieties; if so, this will be noted on the packaging or list of ingredients.
A wide range of items are fortified with vitamin D, despite the fact that some foods already contain trace levels of it. Some examples of foods that may be fortified depend on local regulations, but include:
- Cheese made from whole milk from cows. One cup (240 ml) of milk can have anywhere from zero to 120 international units (3 mcg) of vitamin D, depending on the country (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
- Beverages made without dairy products. Soy, rice, hemp, oat, and almond milks, as well as orange juice, are commonly fortified with vitamin D levels that are comparable to those found in cow’s milk. In 1 cup (240 ml), they could give as much as 100 international units (IU) of vitamin D. (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source).
- Yogurt. Vitamin D is added to several yoghurts, both dairy and nondairy, providing about 52 IU (1.3 mcg) every 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
- Tofu. Although not all tofus is fortified, the fortified varieties typically include about 100 international units (mcg) every 3.5 ounces (100 grammes) (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
- Cereal, both warm and cold. Some varieties of ready-to-eat cereals and oatmeal provide as much as 120 IU (3 mcg) of vitamin D every 1/2 cup (120 grammes) (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
- Margarine. While vitamin D is not added to most kinds of butter, several margarine varieties do so. There are about 20 international units (mcg) in one tablespoon (14 grammes) (35Trusted Source).
Since different nations have different fortification requirements, the simplest way to tell if a food has been fortified with vitamin D and in what quantity is to look at the ingredient list or nutrition label.
Taking a supplement is a great way to ensure you’re getting the vitamin D you need if you’re worried you’re not getting enough from your diet. There are two varieties (36Reliable Source):
Natural sources of vitamin D2 include UV-exposed yeast or mushrooms.
Traditional sources of vitamin D3 include fish oil and wool, although vegan ones made from lichen have recently emerged.
Vitamin D3 appears to be more effective than vitamin D2 at increasing and maintaining high blood levels of vitamin D when taken in big doses of 50,000 IU (1,250 mcg) or more.
However, the benefit of D3 over D2 appears to be significantly reduced when smaller, daily dosages are used (36Trusted Source).
If you look at the supplement’s label, you can see exactly what kind it is. In addition to being a vegan-friendly source of vitamin D3, lichens also provide the active ingredient in most D3 pills.
Due to its fat-soluble nature, vitamin D may be better absorbed if consumed alongside fatty meals (37Trusted Source).
In general, 400–800 IU (10–20 mcg) a day is considered the RDI, though this number can vary widely based on factors including age and pregnancy. It is not advised to take more than this amount over a lengthy period of time because it could be hazardous (38Trusted Source).
Vitamin D poisoning can cause cognitive impairment, depression, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, hearing loss, psychosis, coma, and even death in extreme situations (38Trusted Source).