Vitamin D is actually obtained from the sun. But what if you’re stuck in the office all day and get little or no sunlight? In addition, there are also regions in which the sun cannot be seen for several weeks in winter. How do people there get vital vitamin D? Is it even possible to provide a diet? Is there such a thing as vitamin D foods?
The spoiler right away: Yes, you can also get vitamin D from your diet.
Which foods belong on the plate, how much of it you need to cover your needs and what alternatives you have for a vegan lifestyle, we have summarized here for you.
As a reminder: This is how much vitamin D we need
Vitamin D, or more precisely vitamin D3, the most important form of vitamin D for us, is mainly used in the body for the regulation of calcium levels in blood and bones.
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency therefore usually affect muscles, bones and joints, but infections, high blood pressure or diabetes are also possible consequences.
So how much vitamin D do you need to prevent that?
First, let’s look at the general vitamin D requirement.
In the sunnier months from March to October, depending on the skin type, about 20 minutes of sun is enough to cover daily needs.
However, if you do not go outside and thus cannot obtain vitamin D from sunlight, about 20 μg (micrograms) of vitamin D per day is usually recommended. This applies to men as well as to women and children from about 11 years of age.
Obtaining this 20 μg via vitamin D foods alone is not so easy. After all, usually between 80 and 90% of our vitamin D comes from the sun. The supply via the diet therefore makes comparatively little.
Is it possible to cover your daily needs without the sun?
Lots of vitamin D ≠ delicious
Without sunlight, an adequate supply of vitamin D can become a real problem. Especially in winter, even longer stays outdoors are often not enough.
Fortunately, the substance can be stored relatively well in the body. This happens mainly in fat and muscle tissue. If enough vitamin D food also ends up on the plate, we can easily bridge the dark season.
In more northern climes, certain foods were always used to meet the vitamin D requirement during the particularly long dark periods in winter:
In addition to vitamin D-containing edible fish, especially the good old cod liver oil is suitable for this. The brownish oil is extracted from the liver of fish and is still popular in Scandinavia today as a vitamin D supply during the winter months.
Despite its sometimes quite penetrating taste, one should not underestimate the cod liver oil. 100 g contain a whopping 300 μg of vitamin D3 and thus more than ten times as much as herring, one of the leaders in vitamin D among edible fish.
Other foods high in vitamin D include:
- Cod liver oil (~300 μg per 100 g)
- Eel (~90 μg per 100 g)
- Herring (~25 μg per 100 g)
- Salmon (~16 μg per 100 g)
- Sardine (~11 μg per 100 g)
- Oysters (~8 μg per 100 g)
- Beef liver (~1.9 μg per 100 g)
This list probably does not necessarily cause enthusiasm for many. Especially liver, especially cod liver oil or oysters are not for everyone.
Is that really all about vitamin D foods?
Are there vegan alternatives for vitamin D?
Well, in the list from above are the foods with the highest content of vitamin D3. Unfortunately, this is found almost exclusively in animal products. Nevertheless, as a vegan, you are not completely without alternative: certain plant foods such as avocados or mushrooms contain another variant of the vitamin: vitamin D2.
But what’s the difference?
Vitamin D3 is the most important form of vitamin D for our body because it can simply be processed more efficiently. In comparison, vitamin D2 has a shorter half-life in the organism and cannot be transported as well.
If you take in enough vitamin D2, this can also counteract a deficiency.
These vegan vitamin D foods are suitable for:
- Avocado (~6 μg per 100 g)
- dark chocolate / cocoa (~1.9-5.5 μg per 100 g)
- Morel (~3.1 μg per 100 g)
- Porcini mushrooms (~3 μg per 100 g)
- Chanterelles (~2.1 μg per 100 g)
- Mushrooms (~2 μg per 100 g)
However, the amounts of vitamin D2 contained in vegan foods are usually not enough to cover the need exclusively through the diet. After all, eating 300 g of avocados a day is not particularly realistic.
With a vegan lifestyle, you should definitely make sure to get enough sun in addition to a vitamin D2-containing diet. If this is not enough, you can still resort to vegan dietary supplements with vitamin D .
Healthy Naked: The Best Vitamin D Foods
Unfortunately, a high vitamin D content does not always mean that a food tastes delicious or that it offers many options for cooking – see oysters or cod liver oil. For this reason, we have here a list of the all-round best vitamin D foods for you. Healthy, tasty and with a variety of possible applications in the kitchen.
If you want to put a special focus on a sufficient supply of vitamin D in your diet, you can combine the following foods as desired:
Fatty fish are fish with a particularly high fat content in muscle tissue. Especially marine fatty fish have a high vitamin D content. These include eel, salmon or herring.
When it comes to plant foods, mushrooms have the edge when it comes to vitamin D2. Especially morels and porcini mushrooms should end up on your plate here, but chanterelles are also delicious and healthy.
Chicken eggs also have a vitamin D content that should not be underestimated. A medium-sized egg contains about 1.2 μg of vitamin D3.
Even if it is difficult to cover the vitamin D requirement only with avocados, they are still an excellent supplement for the vitamin balance. Especially if you live vegan, avocados in combination with enough sunlight are exactly what you need.