Not getting enough vitamin D can cause many things to go wrong with the body including multiple sclerosis, cancer, weak bones, depression, insulin resistance, rickets, and an impaired immune system. Vitamin D is found in foods like fatty fish (such as tuna or salmon,) egg yolks, cheese and mushrooms. Along with B12, vitamin D deficiency is sometimes thought to be an issue mainly exclusive to vegans, but that’s not true. Everyone can have this issue – vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters. This vitamin is hard to come by in the diet unless you eat fatty fish every day. So where do vegans get vitamin D from?
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin,” helps with a variety of important body functions such as absorbing calcium and bone growth. In this article I’m going to be going over the top 3 sources of vitamin D for vegans.
Mushrooms are one of the very few natural food source of vitamin D (they provide vitamin D2), the majority of the other ones are from animal sources. Mushrooms can be considered a source for vitamin D, but for that you’ll have to expose them to sunlight first. Unfortunately most of the mushrooms you buy at your grocery store doesn’t have vitamin D because they’re grown in the dark, but you may be able to find varieties that are sun bathed and have significant levels. Some wild mushrooms have vitamin D as well, but I would advise against picking wild mushrooms to eat as they can be poisonous. But generally speaking, it’s hard to find enough vitamin D from natural food sources.
Vitamin D2 VS D3
Vitamin D3 is the one that your body makes when it’s exposed to sunlight, it can also be sourced from plants or animals. D2 is made by fungi when exposed to UV light.
D3 Is Preferred
The recommended form of vitamin D is D3 (also known as “cholecalciferol) because it has a higher bio-availability, meaning that it is much easier for the body to use, although there are limited studies from 2008 that says D2 (aka “ergocalciferol”) can be just as effective as D3.
One key difference between vitamin D2 and D3 is that D3 stays in your body longer, while D2 drops after only a few days not taking it. So if you want to take one big dose of it every month and then forget about it, then go with D3. If you don’t mind taking D2 on a daily basis, then it’s as good as D3.
Our body gets most of the essential vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat. But vitamin D exists in very small amounts from a very small variety of foods, so getting enough from the diet is very hard to do.
There are 2 main ways to make sure you get enough vitamin D: sunlight and supplements.
When your skin comes into contact with the sun’s ultra-violet B rays, a reaction occurs that allows your skin cells to produce Vitamin D3. The more skin that gets exposed to the sun, the more vitamin D is produced. This happens really quickly especially in the summer.
How Much Exposure?
How much exposure you need depends on how dark your skin is, how much skin is exposed, and time of the day. Darker skin offers more protection against skin cancer, but it also means less absorption of ultra-violet B rays. If you’re light skinned then about 5-10 minutes under the sun without sunscreen in a bathing suit at noon time would suffice. If you’re Hispanic or have very tanned skin, then it may take more time, about 15-20 minutes. Black people may take up to 6 times more sun exposure to get the same amount of vitamin D as a fair skinned person.
Can you get vitamin D from sunlight coming in through the glass?
Unfortunately, you can’t make vitamin D while driving your car on a bright sunny day. The UV rays cannot go through the glass, which is why you can’t get sunburned or a tan inside a car with closed windows. You feel heat from the infrared radiation which is not harmful to your health, unless you get overheated. Going outside for a walk during your lunch break is going to be your best option.
I would prefer to focus on food and lifestyle first before supplements. If you can’t get enough sunlight due to your work schedule, or the part of the world you live in, then taking supplements is the best way to make sure you get all the vitamin D you need. You can get vitamin pills or oral sprays that are derived from plants, or you can also get it from vitamin D fortified foods such as clif bars, almond and rice milks, cereals and orange juice. You can find many other different foods that are fortified with vitamins.
Fortifying foods is the process of adding micro-nutrients to foods. Personally I don’t take any pills, I just try to buy foods mentioned above that are fortified with a bunch of different vitamins.
Nowadays in this society more and more of us are working indoors and getting less time out in the sun, it’s more important now than ever to make sure that we get enough of this important vitamin. Deficiencies correspond with many different health issues so I would recommend you do enough research till you are at peace.
Sunshine – #1 Vitamin D Source
Although there are more animal foods than vegan ones that contain vitamin D, foods in general contain very little of it anyway. Because of so little amounts of vitamin D in mushrooms for example, it’s almost impossible to get enough of it through natural food sources alone. Therefore the #1 recommendation for getting enough vitamin D as a vegan would be to get into the lifestyle of getting outdoors consistently on a daily basis.
I hope this article sparks you to do more research on this important topic. If you have any questions or any additional information on this topic, please feel free to leave them in the box below, I would love to hear from you.