Vitamin D can be produced in the body by sunlight. However, if you are not enough outdoors or if the nice weather is absent, it also looks bad with the vitamin D supply. Certain foods, such as fatty fish, can be an alternative here. But what do you do with a meatless and vegan diet? Is vitamin D vegan at all?
Basically yes, but there are a few things to consider.
Here you will find all the information.
Why does your body need vitamin D at all?
First, the basics: As already mentioned, our body can produce vitamin D by exposing sunlight to the skin. Strictly speaking, vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all. The historical definition of the term actually means substances that we cannot produce ourselves.
The error is due to confusion with vitamin A. Only when it was recognized that in addition to vitamin A another, equally important, substance was at work, it was assumed that it must be another unknown vitamin. This was thus given the name vitamin D. But what makes vitamin D so important?
An indication of this is its scientific name “Colecalciferol”. The part “calci” is no coincidence, because vitamin D is immeasurable in regulating calcium levels and building bones. Especially in growth phases, the adequate supply of vitamin D is therefore important. A deficiency can lead to rickets in children, for example. In addition, there is an assumption that an undersupply of vitamin D could be related to the development of osteoporosis of a number of other health problems.
So whether you live vegan or not, vitamin D is important. Now let’s look at how we usually take it.
How to get vitamin D with a regular diet
Although it is believed that there are slight differences in age and gender, science assumes that the daily requirement of vitamin D is around 20 μg (micrograms).
The synthesis of vitamin D is stimulated as soon as our skin comes into contact with UV-B radiation from the sun. So good news, because, as you can imagine, sunlight is 100% vegan. However, this is rather difficult with the alternatives: Most vitamin D foods come from animal sources.
These include, in particular , fish and meat:
- Cod liver oil (~300 μg per 100 g)
- Eel (~90 μg per 100 g)
- Salmon (~16 μg per 100 g)
- Beef liver (~1.9 μg per 100 g)
But do you even need vitamin D from food? After all, the nutrient is also produced in the body by sunlight.
The unsatisfactory answer: It depends.
Is vitamin D even necessary through the diet?
Your skin type determines how effectively the (vegan) intake of vitamin D through sunlight works. While with pale skin already about 10 minutes in the sun can be enough to cover the daily requirement of vitamin D, people with darker skin need 30 minutes or more of sun exposure.
That alone can be problematic. After all, we don’t have time or desire to go out in the sun every day, let alone the risk of sunburn.
In addition, the production of vitamin D in the body depends on several factors. So even if you spend a lot of time outdoors, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your need for vitamin D is automatically met.
Among other things, the synthesis of vitamin D depends on:
- The time of day and season: Really effectively you produce vitamin D only by sunlight between 10 and 16 o’clock in the warmer months.
- The weather: The sunlight should be as direct as possible. Clouds and rain can prevent this.
- It is similar with clothing and sunscreen: It makes a clear difference whether you are in the sun with a shirt and jeans or in a bikini. A lot of sunscreen can also reduce synthesis.
- Where you are in the world: In Central Europe, the synthesis of vitamin D is only possible in the warm months. In more southern countries, this works better.
All of these factors mean that many people are unable to adequately meet their need for vitamin D. For a long time, such a deficiency with undesirable consequences can occur.
If you live vegan, you don’t need more vitamin D than other people. However, you have it much more difficult when it comes to alternative vitamin D sources.
Which vegan vitamin D alternatives are there and what should you consider?
These are the best vegan foods with vitamin D
Vitamin D is also found in vegan foods. These include, for example:
- Avocados (~6 μg per 100 g)
- Morels (~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, there is a problem: Vitamin D is not always the same as vitamin D.
The vitamin D that we produce through sunlight, as well as the non-vegan vitamin D from animal products, are vitamin D3. However, vegan plant-based foods contain vitamin D2.
The difference is that the D3 variant can be processed much more efficiently by the body than vitamin D2.
Vegan foods can therefore only counteract a lack of vitamin D to a limited extent. During the cold season or with only a small stay in the sun, the supply of vitamin D by exclusively plant foods can be very difficult to guarantee.
Although there are foods enriched with vitamin D specifically for the vegan diet, vegans are generally recommended to supplement with vegan vitamin D3. According to studies, the vitamin D supply of vegan people is on average well below the supply of people with a non-vegan diet.
Dietary supplements as an alternative: Pay attention to the content
Vegan supplements with concentrated vitamin D3 are an excellent supplement to the supply via the sun. When buying, you are spoilt for choice between drops, tablets or capsules.
However, it is particularly important that the contained vitamin D3 also reaches the body. When it comes to bioavailability, i.e. the rate at which a nutrient from a supplement can unfold its effect in your body, capsules are clearly ahead of the game.
In addition to the ingredients, however, the capsule shell itself should also be produced vegan. The shells can also contain animal substances such as gelatin.
If you pay attention to this, supplementing vitamin D via vegan supplements is not only possible, but even highly effective. You should definitely follow the intake recommendation, as too much vitamin D can lead to a harmful overdose even in vegan form.
As is so often the case, a healthy balance between supplementation, sunlight and nutrition is crucial for vitamin D. Nothing stands in the way of an optimal nutrient supply even with a vegan lifestyle.