3 Natural Vegan Sources of Vitamin D for Plant Based Diets
If you're a vegan or on a plant-based diet, please be aware of which sources of Vitamin D are the most beneficial for your needs as you may need supplementation to stay at healthy levels.
Article by: Ashlen Weddington, Certified Health Coach
Mushrooms, Sunlight, and Supplements: Three Sources to Get Vitamin D on a Vegan Diet
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that the body requires for immune system modulation, bone health, and muscle strength. With low levels of Vitamin D, you are more susceptible to the common cold and flu.
Additionally, Vitamin D aids calcium absorption. When your body contains lower levels of it, you are at higher risk for bone fractures, osteomalacia, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
Dangers of Vitamin D Deficiency
What puts you at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?
If you spend a lot of your time indoors (which a lot of us do!) you could be at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that the human body actually produces.
Getting Enough Vitamin D from Sunlight
In order for the body to synthesize Vitamin D, you must expose your body to direct sunlight to receive ultraviolet B rays (UVB rays). Those who have lighter skin don’t need as much direct sunlight as those with darker skin need to produce Vitamin D.
That being said, Vitamin D deficiency is not a “vegan thing”; everyone is susceptible to being deficient in it.
The wintertime also increases your risk for Vitamin D deficiency since there is less sunlight. Going out in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest may help expose you to UVB rays.
In order to get enough Vitamin D, you will likely need to eat foods and supplement your diet with it throughout the winter.
Getting Vitamin D as a Vegan from Mushrooms
A natural way to get Vitamin D as a vegan is through mushrooms. In a study, it was found that mushrooms actually synthesize Vitamin D the way humans do; mushrooms absorb sunlight through their skin to produce D2.
In the same study, it was reported:
“These results provide evidence that ingesting mushrooms which have been exposed to ultraviolet light and contain vitamin D2, are a good source of vitamin D that can improve the vitamin D status of healthy adults.
Furthermore we found ingesting mushrooms containing vitamin D2 was as effective in raising and maintaining a healthy adult's vitamin D status as ingesting a supplement that contained either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3".
- Source: Boston University Medical Center
- Summary: Researchers have discovered that eating mushrooms containing Vitamin D2 can be as effective at increasing and maintaining vitamin D levels (25–hydroxyvitamin D) as taking supplemental vitamin D2 or vitamin D3.
Therefore, mushrooms are a healthy way to get Vitamin D, and are just as efficient as taking a supplement.
D3 typically comes from animal sources, but if you are eating a variety of mushrooms, you can get enough Vitamin D in a vegan diet. Some mushroom varieties include portobello, shiitake, crimini, maitake, lion’s mane, oyster and so many more! In addition to containing Vitamin D, mushrooms are a great source of protein in a vegan diet.
Getting Vitamin D with Vegan Supplements as a Source
Another way to get Vitamin D is through a supplement. Vitamin D is an affordable supplement, and easy to find in most health food stores and in pharmacies. Most commonly, it comes in pill/capsule form.
If you are vegan, make sure to check supplement labels for ingredients; not all Vitamin D supplements are vegan.
Getting Vitamin D Through Fortified Vegan Foods
Lastly, Vitamin D is commonly supplemented in food and drink products. If you check your cereal boxes, plant-based milks, and other packaged foods, it is likely that you will see added Vitamin D. Labels on these types of food will typically read, “Fortified with Vitamin D”.
However, it is unclear how much of the Vitamin D that the body actually absorbs from fortified foods. Getting Vitamin D from the sun and foods containing naturally occurring Vitamin D should be your first choice, and then supplementing with Vitamin D and fortified foods can be your back-up plan.
About the Author - Ashlen Weddington
My education and certification is through the UCSD Extension Integrative Nutrition Program. Through this program I was taught foundations of science-based nutrition, as well as using concepts from Ayurveda, Macrobiotics, and Chinese medicine for healing. I believe in bio individuality; there is no ideal diet for everyone. The best way for you to eat will be different from myself and your best friend; YOU are unique.
I incorporate my knowledge of yoga, breath work and meditation, into health coaching. I received my 200hr yoga teacher certificate in Vinyasa/Hatha yoga through Yandara Yoga Institute, and 21 hour restorative yoga training through Yoga Garden SF.
Mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as supplements. (2013, April 22). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130422132801.htm
How to Get Vitamin D From Sunlight. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/
A Note from the Founder of Vegan Health Pack: Being deficient in Vitamin D was one of the reasons why I started this website. While we offer natural vitamin D sources through mushroom extracts, and promote getting Vitamin D naturally through sunlight, a doctor told me that I had to take a supplement 2x a day to get back to my normal levels.
If you are concerned about your Vitamin D levels, ask your doctor to test your current levels and what they recommend for supplementing.