Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin commonly known as the sunshine vitamin, is crucial to good health.
It aids in the body’s absorption of calcium and keeps blood magnesium and phosphate concentrations at healthy levels, all of which are essential for healthy teeth, muscles, and bones. It’s also important for your heart, brain, immunity, and sanity.
Worldwide, people suffer from widespread vitamin D deficiency. Fatigue, aching muscles, brittle bones, and, in children, stunted development are all signs of a deficit.
Children aged 1-13 years old require 600 IU (15 mcg) of vitamin D daily, whereas infants and toddlers need just 400 IU (10 mcg) daily to maintain appropriate levels. Aim for 600 IU (15 mcg) per day for adults and 800 IU (20 mcg) per day for pregnant or nursing women (2).
However, just a handful of foods really contain this vitamin, and most of those are animal-based. This makes it challenging for vegetarians and vegans, in particular, to acquire enough of this essential from their diet.
While doing so, there are a few meals and practices that might provide a boost.
The following are six vegetarian and vegan-friendly options for getting enough vitamin D in your diet.
When your skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, it creates vitamin D. This is how most individuals acquire part of their vitamin D.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that optimum vitamin D levels can be generated by exposing the face, arms, legs, or back to sunshine for 5-30 minutes twice weekly without sunscreen.
This kind of direct sun exposure, however, may not be feasible depending on your region and environment.
The capacity of your skin to create adequate vitamin D is also affected by factors such as your age, skin color, and the usage of sunscreen, as well as the season, time of day, and intensity of pollution or smog.
A gloomy day or pollution can lessen the intensity of UV radiation by as much as 60 percent. Sun exposure times of more than 30 minutes may be necessary for those over 60 and people of darker skin tones to synthesize enough vitamin D.
While little sun exposure is healthy, too much can cause skin cancer. For this reason, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people don’t get all their vitamin D from the sun.
Sunlight causes your skin to create vitamin D. However, there are a number of things that might lower your body’s ability to produce vitamin D, and too much sun exposure isn’t suggested because of the danger it poses of causing skin cancer.
2. Certain mushrooms
When mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet light, they produce vitamin D. This distinguishes them as the sole vitamin D-containing plant food.
Examples of foods high in vitamin D include mushrooms, which can contain anywhere from 154 IU (3.8 mcg) to 1,136 IU (28 mcg) per 3.5 ounces (100 gram) meal whether they are either wild-grown or experimentally treated to UV radiation.
Vitamin D levels in the body can be increased by eating these foods, which have a vitamin D concentration that remains high throughout their shelf life.
However, as most commercially available mushrooms are produced in the dark and not exposed to UV radiation, they likely contain very little vitamin D.
Try to find a label that specifies the amount of vitamin D present. If you can’t seem to track down any mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light, your best hope may be to check the selection at a health food shop or farmers market, both of which frequently include wild varieties.
Please keep in mind that not all wild mushrooms are edible. The effects of ingesting a toxic one might range from minor discomfort to organ failure and even death. Since this is the case, unless you have prior training and experience, you shouldn’t go out mushroom hunting on your own.
Mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light have varied quantities of vitamin D and appear to be just as efficient in increasing vitamin D levels as pills. However, mushrooms cultivated in a traditional setting don’t get much sun and hence have very little vitamin D.
3. Egg yolks
The amount of vitamin D in egg yolks is highly dependent on the food and level of sunlight exposure of the laying hen.
Eggs from hens on vitamin-D-enriched feed can have as much as 6,000 IU (150 mcg) of vitamin D per yolk, while eggs from chicks fed a regular diet have just 18-39 IU (0.4–1 mcg).
In a similar vein, eggs from hens kept outdoors have been shown to contain three to four times as much vitamin D than eggs from birds bred indoors.
Nutritionally, vitamin D is more abundant in free-range or organic eggs. It’s possible that the label will additionally state that these eggs have been fortified with this vitamin.
Egg yolks can be a good source of vitamin D, especially if the chickens who laid the eggs were fed vitamin-D-enriched food or were given access to the outdoors.
There is some vitamin D in cheese, but only trace levels.
Vitamin D content ranges from 8 IU (0.2 mcg) to 24 IU (0.6 mcg) per 2-ounce (50-gram) serving across most kinds. These levels change depending on the cheesemaking process.
To wit: Fontina, Monterey, and Cheddar all have more than mozzarella, whereas mozzarella only has a fraction of those other cheeses’. Vitamin D is essentially nonexistent in soft cheeses like cottage, ricotta, and cream cheese.
You can tell whether a product has been fortified with vitamin D since it will say so on the label or list of ingredients.
There is some vitamin D in cheese, but only trace levels. The extra flavor may be found in cheeses like Cheddar, Fontina, and Monterey.
5. Fortified Foods
While vitamin D may be found in very trace levels in certain foods, many others have been fortified with it. Some examples of foods that are often fortified, depending on local regulations, are:
- Cow’s milk. In certain countries, a single cup of milk (240 ml) might include as much as 120 international units (IU) (3 mcg) of vitamin D.
- Alternative drinks. Vitamin D is commonly added to orange juice and plant milk such as soy, rice, hemp, oat, and almond milk to make them nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk. Depending on the brand, a single cup might contain as much as 100 international units (2.5 milligrams) of vitamin D. (240 ml).
- Yogurt. Fortified yogurts may be found in both the dairy and non-dairy categories, and they typically provide 52 IU (1.3 mcg) of vitamin D every 3.5-ounce serving (100 grams).
- Tofu. Some brands of tofu are fortified with vitamin D, providing an extra 100 IU (2.5 mcg) every 3.5-ounce serving (100 grams).
- Cereals, both hot and cold. Depending on the variation, a serving of oatmeal or ready-to-eat cereal with 120 grams (about half a cup) can provide as much as 120 international units (IU) (3 milligrams) of vitamin D.
- Margarine. While vitamin D isn’t added to most kinds of butter, several margarine varieties do. There are around 20 international units in a serving size of one tablespoon (14 grams) (0.5 mcg).
Until international fortification standards are standardized, the only way to know for sure if a food has been fortified with vitamin D and in what quantity is to look at the ingredient list or nutrition label.
Cereals, milk (both dairy and nondairy), and other common foods are often fortified with vitamin D. In light of the fact that international regulations differ, it is important to read the label thoroughly.
Taking a vitamin D supplement might be a good way to ensure you’re getting the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, especially if your diet isn’t providing you with enough. One can find them in either of two formats:
UV-exposed yeast or mushrooms are a common source of vitamin D2.
Fish oil and wool are common sources of vitamin D3, however, lichen has recently been created as a vegan alternative.
Vitamin D3, when administered in quantities of 50,000 IU (1,250 mcg) or more, appears to be more successful than vitamin D2 at increasing and maintaining high blood levels of vitamin D.
Smaller daily dosages of D3 appear to have far less of an effect than D2 does.
You may check the supplement’s label to see what kind it is. Vegan certification is an additional feature of most lichen-derived D3 supplements.
The absorption of vitamin D may be enhanced when consumed with fats due to its fat-soluble nature.
Remember that the RDI ranges from 400 to 800 IU (10 to 20 mcg) and is based on variables including age and pregnancy. There may be harmful effects from exceeding this dosage for lengthy durations.
Vitamin D poisoning can cause mental and physical symptoms such as disorientation, poor concentration, depression, stomach discomfort, vomiting, hypertension, hearing loss, psychosis, and, in severe instances, renal failure and coma.
Vitamin D supplements are a safe and dependable way to get nutrients. They are most effective when eaten with fat, and the RDI shouldn’t be exceeded for lengthy periods of time.
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