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How to get enough Vitamin D on a Plant-Based diet
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Duncan

Duncan

Thrive Republic Founder

Up to half the world’s population could be deficient in vitamin D. Those following a plant-based diet need to pay special attention to this essential vitamin as there are no reliable plant-based, dietary sources.

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You can get enough vitamin D if you get about 15 minutes of exposure to the sun each day You may need more if: it's winter; you live in the Northern hemisphere; or you have darker skin.

eat foods that have been fortified with vitamin d Many commercially produced foods have been fortified with vitamin D. Check the labels to see how much you can expect per serve. Adults up to 70 years old need around 70 micrograms per day.

create your own vitamin d fortified mushrooms by leaving mushrooms in the sun for 15 to 30 minutes Placing mushrooms, gill side up, in the sun will encourage them to produce their own vitamin D. Some mushrooms produce more vitamin D than others, so consider taking a supplement too to ensure you get your recommended intake.

take a vitamin d supplement Check the label to make sure that the supplement you chose is plant-based or vegan. If in doubt, vitamin D2 is always plant-based.

Some studies show that up to half of the world population could be deficient in Vitamin D.

Dr Zahid Naeem says: “Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem. With all the medical advances of the century, vitamin D deficiency is still epidemic.”

Vitamin D deficiencies affect omnivores, vegans and vegetarians alike. But with no reliable plant-based sources, those on a plant-based diet should take special care.

why do we need vitamin D?​

Many people misunderstand what a vitamins are – far from being ’nice-to-haves’ that provide a little health boost. Vitamins are, in fact, essential for survival. They’re compounds that the body can’t make for itself, and must come from your diet and other sources.

​When it comes to essential compounds like vitamins, you have to ensure that you provide your body with adequate amounts. If not, your health can suffer.

​Vitamin D plays a role in various bodily systems, but it’s most well-known for the collaborative role it plays with calcium in maintaining healthy teeth and bones. Without sufficient vitamin D, your body will struggle to absorb all the calcium it needs.

​Interestingly we can get vitamin D from two sources – one is our diet, and the other is from exposure to sunlight.

the sunshine vitamin

Our bodies can produce all the vitamin D we need from exposure to sunlight. In todays’s world, many people spend most of their time indoors, and if they do get exposure to the sun it tends to be on the faces and for a limited period of time. This is often not enough exposure for your body to produce all the vitamin D that it requires for good health.

In addition to this, many people have come to believe that the sun is bad for them. While an excess of sunlight can certainly do harm, and you should certainly take care not to burn, being outside in the sunlight is actually natural for us. Our ancestors wouldn’t have spent anything like as much time indoors as we do today.

As a rough guide, 15-20 minutes of sunlight on your face and bare arms, a few times a week, should be enough for your body to produce all the vitamin D it needs.

There are however a few things to keep in mind:

If you live far from the equator the strength of the sun will be much weaker and you may require more time in the sunlight to get the same effect.

Similarly, in winter, 15-20 minutes might not be enough for you to get all you need.

If you have darker skin, you may need more time to get the amount of sunlight you need.

If you don’t get enough sunlight either because of where you live, the time of year, or your lifestyle, you may want to consider taking a supplement.

can you get vitamin D from a plant-based diet?

There are no naturally occurring plant-based foods which contain vitamin D. Even though you can find Vitamin D from animal sources, most omnivores still suffer from insufficient levels of vitamin D. So remember, this isn’t just an issue for vegetarians and vegans.

If you don’t get enough sunlight exposure to meet for your vitamin D requirements, and you are following a plant-based diet, then you have a couple of options to ensure your body gets what it needs – fortified foods or supplements.

It is possible to find a variety of foods which have been fortified with vitamin D. That means that they’ve had vitamin D added to them.

Examples include:

  • Cereals
  • Plant milk drinks
  • Orange juices
  • Nutritional yeast and a selection of other food products.

In each case, you’ll need to check the label to see if they are fortified with vitamin D, and how much you can expect to get per serve. Adults up to 70 years old need around 70 micrograms per day.

vitamin D supplements

If you are concerned that you might not be getting enough vitamin D, you may choose to use a Vitamin D supplement which can easily be found in any health store or online.

If you do decide to supplement, keep in mind that:

  • Vitamin D3 – normally comes from animal sources (often fish oils). You can find vegan friendly sources – check the label.

  • Vitamin D2 – This is a plant-based supplement and so is vegan friendly.
common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

If you lack vitamin D, your body will struggle to get its calcium requirements, and will be unable to build and maintain strong bones.

Vitamin D also helps to absorb a range of other nutrients, as well as helping you to keep your cardiovascular system in good shape.

There are a number of common symptoms of vitamin D insufficiency, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Weakened immune system
  • Inflammation and swelling

If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels, or have any other health concerns you should consult a medical professional.

Considering the vital importance of vitamin D, you should ensure that your body is getting everything it needs.​

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duncan turner
duncan turner

Duncan's mission is to support the next wave of plant-based eaters! His background in entrepreneurship, working with NGOs & in development has brought Thrive Republic to life. (His recipe tasting skills are second to none too!) He's focused on helping people to bring energy to their lives, while doing their bit to protect the future of the planet and all of its inhabitants.

references

Is vitamin D deficiency a major global public health problem? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4018438/

Vitamin D Deficiency- An Ignored Epidemic: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/

​Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/

​Vitamin D Deficiency- An Ignored Epidemic: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/

​Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56061/

​Clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498026/

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