Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is naturally produced in a larger quantity in people who are specifically more exposed to natural sunlight. It is usually known for its capabilities to monitor hormonal functioning and enhancing muscle recovery, better mood, improved memory, immunity, as well as low mortality rates.
Unfortunately, there are very limited food options to use as good examples of Vitamin D sources. Hence, both vegans and omnivores end up being Vitamin D deficient, which can cause several serious threats to human health, especially in today’s world, such as cancer, cognitive impairment, cardiovascular diseases, weaker bones, asthma, etc. Additionally, vegan diets do not offer a plethora of choices for reliable Vitamin D food sources because of their selective plant-based food choices that often fail to accumulate or extract necessary nutrients for the body.
Thus, here are the insights to help you gain sufficient knowledge about Vitamin D in regards to a dedicated vegan diet.
What is Vitamin D and Why is it Important?
To put it in simple words, Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that is solely responsible for increased intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and many other biological effects. Whenever a person is frequently exposed to the sun’s Ultra-Violet rays, a chemical present in the human skin reacts to the sunlight by producing Vitamin D, which is then carried away to the liver and the kidneys to activate it for the body. As we are commonly aware that Vitamin D is usually synthesized in sufficient amounts by most mammals, it plays a very significant role in increased metabolism and better calcium homeostasis.
Vitamin D has a vast array of health benefits, including reduced risks of cancer, prevention from cognitive impairment, reduced cardiovascular diseases, etc. Another salient job of Vitamin D is to maintain the skeletal calcium balance, thereby promoting intestinal calcium and bone remodeling as a stimulator of bone resorption. Interestingly, Vitamin D receptor expression usually decreases with age and time and also is directly related to mass, muscle strength, and function.
Now that we have learned about Vitamin D in a bit of detail let’s discuss its impact on the human body.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need In A Day?
To be fair, there have been several recommendations over the years determining the perfect dose of Vitamin D in regards to a person’s health history and immunity. For the longest time, this discussion was based on ‘how much Vitamin D can help prevent certain diseases in a human body?’ Some of the recent findings have stated that the ideal levels of Vitamin D for a healthy person should be around 32 to 40 ng/ml. Adequate Vitamin D levels do have the potential to reduce the risk of fibromyalgia, arthritis, etc.
There are contradictory opinions of how a baby must receive proper doses of Vitamin D. Also, people, especially those adopting vegan lifestyles, do not have adequate sources to obtain Vitamin D, which leaves the infants equally in need to try and search for sources outside their vegan diets. However, one of the easiest ways to do it is to ensure the baby gets enough exposure to natural sunlight, at least for 5-10 minutes every day, for their healthy growth and proper development.
However, if you ask me personally, I wouldn’t recommend doing that since the sun’s harmful rays may affect the infant’s health adversely if exposed for a longer period. Therefore, as a substitute, you can go ahead with a good Vitamin D liquid drop supplement or an infant formula that has at least 400 IU of Vitamin D (applicable for the infants who are breastfed since breast milk contains low levels of Vitamin D), to provide the baby with the necessary nutrition.
It is suggested that children from 4 years of age to adults should have at least a regular source of Vitamin D supplement if it’s not obtained naturally. The ideal dose of Vitamin D for them is 400 IU (10 micrograms) every day. This includes men as well as people who are at risk of getting Vitamin D deficiency. Pregnant and breastfeeding women from 14-50 years should opt for a 600 IU Vitamin D supplement/per day.
However, if you are someone who’s regularly exposed to natural sunlight for a good amount of time, you may adjust the dosage accordingly to your needs and requirements.
3. Elderly People
In contrast to the earlier suggestion, elderly people should enjoy at least 30 minutes of natural sunlight every day to ensure a good amount of Vitamin D absorption into the body for healthy and better functioning. Well, additionally, one can also opt for an 800 IU/per day of Vitamin D supplement, along with a proper nutrition-packed diet to regulate the amount of Vitamin D levels in their bodies.
As we grow older, our capability to produce Vitamin D in our bodies starts to reduce, therefore often resulting in Vitamin D deficiencies. Therefore, to ensure good health and proper bodily functioning, one must never neglect the need to monitor and regulate their everyday diets and pinch in food supplements (especially for people adopting vegan lifestyles) whenever they need to provide their body with adequate nutrition.
What Are The Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Other common causes for Vitamin D deficiency include weight loss surgeries, cystic fibrosis, obesity, and kidney and liver diseases. A severe lack of Vitamin D can cause various health risks for both children and adults. One of the most common problems children usually suffer from due to Vitamin D deficiency is Rickets, which shows up as incorrect growth patterns, tremendous pain in bones, weakness in muscles, and severe joint deformities. However, lack of Vitamin d is not as obvious in adults as in children.
Symptoms of lack of Vitamin D Includes:
- Bone and muscle pain
- Fatigue and weakness
- Muscle weakness, muscle aches, and cramps
- Frequent mood swings
- Depression, low self-esteem
- Joint deformities
Some other factors that may also lead to Vitamin D deficiency are:
- Age: The ability to produce Vitamin D reduces with age and time.
- Mobility: People who rarely go outside in the fresh air have significantly less sun exposure.
- Skin Colour: People with dark-colored skin can produce less quantity Vitamin D in comparison.
Can Vegans Get Enough Vitamin D From A Plant-based diet?
According to professionals, it is usually impossible to get enough Vitamin D from a plant-based vegan diet. However, if you opt for proper food choices, the chances of developing Vitamin D deficiency may highly reduce. Therefore, you must include lots of mushrooms, fortified foods, and supplements to ensure there’s no lack of regular high-quality Vitamin D sources. Also, don’t forget to go ahead and let your skin absorb the sunlight to obtain Vitamin D from it naturally.
The Best Vegan-friendly Sources Of Vitamin D
Mushrooms have plenty of helpful nutrients such as glucans for immunity enhancement, ergothioneine for antioxidant potentiating, nerve growth stimulators for helping in proper brain functioning, etc. To maximize the quantity of Vitamin D they contain, one can also place them under sunlight for a while. Just like our skin, dry mushrooms will soak in the Vitamin D levels from the sunlight.
Some of the best types of mushrooms to obtain high sources of Vitamin D from are Shiitake, Button, Maitake, Morel, and Portobello. To elaborate, Maitake mushrooms have around 786 IU of Vitamin D, which is visibly a great amount for a single food source. Similarly, Portobello mushrooms have up to 643 IU of Vitamin D per serving. Therefore, you can easily add mushrooms to your vegan diet, specifically to ensure a good dosage of regular Vitamin D sources.
2. Fortified Cereals
Although fortified cereals are not suitable for everyday meals, they do offer a little amount of Vitamin D, with almost 40 IU per cup. Therefore, you may choose to include it in your diet but remember that it won’t be just enough.
Also Read: List Of The Best Vegan Cereals Brands
3. Fortified Plant-Based Milk
Well, obviously, with cow milk out of the picture, as a dedicated vegan, you will start questioning about other better available options to choose from. In order to ensure obtaining plant-based sources of Vitamin D, you can confidently go ahead with almond or soy milk for your regular nutrition. Fortified vegan milks, such as coconut milk, soy milk, oat milk, or almond milk, contain high levels of Vitamin D and Calcium. Hence, you see? Vegans, too, have a lot to choose from the plate. Hence, don’t hesitate to go out and explore the different brands that offer the best.
However, before buying vegan milks, you must always check the ingredients to ensure they are not non-fortified brands. Fortified vegan milks contain absolutely zero amounts of animal products or by-products and, therefore, are entirely safe for vegans to consume. They even serve up to 100 IU of Vitamin D per cup.
4. Soy Yogurt
Soy yogurt, packed with 80 IU of Vitamin D per 150 grams, is an excellent source of Vitamin D for vegans. It does not contain any milk products and also has a great taste.
Who can deny that tofu is undoubtedly one of the best vegan options available in the market? Tofu is rich in several Vitamins and Minerals. It is used in a variety of dishes all over the world. You may have it scrambled on top of your toast or prepare a delicious tofu Thai green curry. You can also taste the inviting tofu burger for a change.
However, not all tofu has the right amount of vitamin D. Therefore; you must not forget to check if it’s fortified with Vitamin D. Ensure that your tofu is able to provide you with at least 20-30% of your daily source of required Vitamin D. Additionally, tofu is also a great substitute for any meat since it gives off a similar taste and texture, without actually containing any meat.
6. Orange Juice
Consuming fortified orange juice is a great way to ensure a good source of Vitamin D since it provides almost around 100 IU per cup. In addition, orange juice is a typical favorite of most of the people due to its tropical flavor that your taste buds enjoy.
It is essential to understand the type of food you are consuming, especially if you’re vegan, to get a clear insight into how much nutrition you might obtain. Therefore, always make sure to check out the ingredients of a particular food product to understand what you’re putting into your body.
Nothing is better than a natural source of Vitamin D. The most efficient and easy way to obtain a good amount of Vitamin D is to get yourself exposed to natural sunlight. Our body is capable of producing Vitamin D on its own. Thus, whenever someone is exposed to the natural sunlight, a chemical present in the human skin reacts to the sunlight by producing Vitamin D, which is then carried away to the liver and the kidneys to activate it for the body. Allowing your body to absorb Vitamin D from the sunlight for at least 30 minutes every day can result in improved health conditions.
However, too much of anything is not good. Make sure you are not spending more time than required to get the job done, which in return, can also leave you with sunburns.
8. Vitamin D Supplements
If you are someone who rarely goes outdoors or barely gets the sun exposure, an excellent way to love your body by providing it with the proper amount of Vitamin D levels is by supplementing vitamin D. To ensure an appropriate Vitamin D for vegans is extremely important since they have lesser options in food choices in comparison to omnivores. Additionally, most Vitamin D supplements are usually sourced from animals, making it necessary to thoroughly check the ingredients for the vegans before reaching out to buy any. On the contrary, there are many vegan options available if you know where to look for them. Hence, there’s nothing really to worry about.
Thus, there are plenty of options available when choosing the right food for a good source of Vitamin D for the body. Although plant-based vegan diets are known for their insufficient sources of Vitamin D, it can be changed with proper food choices among them, along with sunlight exposure and high-quality supplements.