Published on May 7th, 2013 | by Becky Striepe3
Eating Vegan: Getting Enough Vitamin D
Is it possible to get adequate vitamin D on a vegan diet?
It’s actually not just vegans who struggle to meet daily requirements for vitamin D. Many people are deficient in this vitamin: one that is critical to bone health. Calcium gets all the cred as the bone vitamin, but you actually need to balance your calcium with adequate vitamin D and magnesium for truly healthy bones.
D-ciphering: D2 vs. D3
There are actually two forms of vitamin D: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 is plant-based, and D3 comes from animal sources. You might hear that D3 is easier for your body to absorb, but vegans can absolutely get enough vitamin D from eating fortified and D-rich foods (more on that below!) or from taking a vitamin D2 supplement.
Vegans aren’t the only ones that should consider supplementing with vitamin D. Many adults don’t get enough of this vitamin. The best way to find out if you need a supplement? Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels at your next checkup!
The Sunshine Vitamin
One good way to get in your vitamin D is actually totally unrelated to food: get outdoors without sunscreen for a little while each day. Vitamin D is “the sunshine vitamin,” and in theory you can get enough just from sun exposure. The trouble is, we don’t all get outside enough to absorb all of that sunny D, and if you wear sunscreen, you’re missing out on much of that benefit.
Are animal sources of vitamin D the best?
You’ll hear a lot of folks say that the best sources of dietary vitamin D are dairy products and fish (aka vitamin D3), but that’s not really true. According to Ginny Messina, a vegan nutritionist:
Technically, omnivores can get it from fish, but they would have to eat fish daily which is certainly not practical for most or a responsible and sustainable choice. And most fortified foods don’t have enough to meet needs; you’d need to drink 6 cups daily of cow’s milk or plant milk to meet the RDA for vitamin D.
That is a lot of milk and fish! You can see why anyone – vegan or not – could need a little help getting adequate vitamin D.
It’s not news that mushrooms contain a bit of vitamin D, but a new study shows that ‘shrooms might be an even more promising source of D than we thought! A recent study found that eating mushrooms can help boost your vitamin D as well as animal foods containing the stuff.
That doesn’t mean you can throw some ‘shrooms on your next salad and not worry about vitamin D requirements. If you don’t get a lot of sun exposure and you’re not eating fortified foods, you might want to talk to your doctor about testing your vitamin D levels. When I was pregnant, I became vitamin D deficient in my third trimester, which is common in a lot of pregnant women, and taking a daily D2 supplement on top of my prenatal vitamin did the trick in just a couple of weeks.