Vitamin D helps keep your bones strong and your immune system healthy. As many people rely on fortified dairy products for their vitamin D, you may be wondering how to meet the requirements while following a plant-based lifestyle.
Although the plant-based sources of vitamin D are fewer in number, there are certainly still options to choose from. This article will help you find out how to meet your needs.
Fortified Plant-Based Foods
Many plant-based foods are fortified with vitamin D. Some of these include plant-based milks (such as soy or rice milk), soy-based meat alternatives like tofu, some orange juices, and margarine.
Before buying any of these products, always check the nutrition facts table on the back of the package. Different brands may not always contain vitamin D, or may contain different amounts.
For an easy reference, a product with a good source of vitamin D provides at least 15% of your daily requirement. Some brands of fortified foods may provide up to 30% of your daily requirement of vitamin D.
Few plant-based foods contain naturally-occurring vitamin D. However, certain types of mushrooms are the exception to that rule. Maitake mushrooms are by far the best source, providing close to 70% of daily requirements per ½ cup serving. Chanterelle and morel mushrooms are also acceptable sources.
See the table below to see how your favorite mushroom variety stacks up.
|Type of Mushroom||Amount of Vitamin D (IU) in ½ cup serving||% Daily Recommended Intake|
Vitamin D is unique among vitamins in that your body can produce it when your skin is exposed to sunlight. However, many factors affect your body’s ability to produce vitamin D, including:
- Age: the older you are, the less efficient your body is at making vitamin D.
- The time of year: in winter months, the sun isn’t strong enough for your body to produce vitamin D effectively.
- Where you live: the further north you are, the longer the winter season, and the weaker the sunlight.
- The color of your skin: darker skin will take longer to produce vitamin D compared to lighter skin.
- Sunscreen: Although it protects your skin against sun damage, sunscreen blocks the body’s ability to produce vitamin D.
Depending on where you stand regarding these variables, you may not get enough vitamin D from sunshine alone. As such, it’s important to be mindful of other vitamin D sources from plant-based foods to ensure you meet your needs.
Health Canada recommends that all adults over 50 take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU. Younger people who don’t get enough vitamin D from food or sun may also benefit from a supplement. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about starting a supplement if you think your levels may be low.
There are two types of vitamin D supplements available: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 is produced from plant sources, while vitamin D3 is produced from animal sources. For this reason, some vegans and vegetarians prefer to take vitamin D2.
However, research has shown that vitamin D2 is significantly less well absorbed in the body than vitamin D3.
For this reason, it’s recommended to choose supplements containing vitamin D3 unless you have ethical objections to any use of animal products.
Remember that when it comes to supplements, more isn’t always better. Adults of any age should not take more than 4000 IU per day. Levels above this can lead to negative side effects such as bone and kidney problems.
Plant-Based Vitamin D Sources Aren’t So Hard To Find
As you can see, with a bit of planning, it’s not hard to find sources of vitamin D on a plant-based diet. A glass of fortified soy milk, a tofu and mushroom stir-fry, and 15 minutes of summer sun all contribute to your daily needs.
How do you make sure to get enough daily vitamin D on a plant-based diet? Let us know in the comments!
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