Vitamin D Sources,
original natural source of vegan vitamin D was sunlight. Vitamin D is
a vitamin at all,
but a prohormone that we make from the action of
on our skin. We later convert it to an active
species evolved in equatorial Africa. Our ancestors wore little or no
clothing. Early humans got plenty of sun and they produced plenty of
And Why We Need It
our lives are different.
We spend most of our time inside our home,
car, and workplace.
Dermatologists warn us to use
every time we go out in the sun.
They say that if we don't, we will
develop skin cancer.
But sunscreen blocks the rays that enable
to make vitamin D.
Scientists say a majority of people are
now vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms
For many years, doctors have known that
vitamin D deficiency causes the bone disease called rickets. Children
who never went out in the sun were at risk for rickets. Adults
developed a similar bone condition called osteomalacia.
recent studies show that vitamin D is important for other
And the blood levels that are enough to protect us
from rickets or osteomalacia still leave
us vulnerable to other diseases.
Lower levels of vitamin D
are linked with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes,
pain, and more than 100
other conditions. Adequate vitamin D levels correlate with a 60% lower
risk of major cancers. (No, that is not a typo.) Vitamin D
helps us destroy viruses.
Sub-optimal levels of vitamin D during the winter make us more
to cold and flu viruses.
Vitamin D requirements
The US Daily Value for vitamin D intake is 400 IU per day.
However, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU per day, and 800
IU for people age 70 and up.
The elderly need more
vitamin D than others, because we do not convert sunlight to vitamin D
efficiently as we
age. Other people have different needs too.
For example, if you are overweight or obese, you probably
have low vitamin
levels. Vitamin D is stored in body fat. The more body fat you have,
more vitamin D you store. This leaves less vitamin D available in the
bloodstream for your body to use. Until you reach your ideal weight,
you will need more vitamin D than a normal weight
of color, especially blacks, need much more sun than
whites to produce adequate levels of vitamin D. The pigment in
colored skin blocks many of the UVB rays. Black skin evolved near the
equator where sun was plentiful. Blacks who choose to live in cold
regions are often vitamin D deficient. This may explain many
Clearly, people vary in the amount of sun they get and in their
personal needs. The best way to determine our vitamin D status is to
test our blood.
Ideal blood levels of vitamin D
A group of thirty vitamin D researchers agrees that for optimum health,
we should maintain
a level of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (calcidiol)
of at least 40 ng/ml
(100 nmol/L). Between
50 and 70 ng/ml is best (125 - 175 nmol/L). If you have
your blood tested, be
sure to test for 25(OH)D.
Do not test for 1,25(OH)2 D, as it will not give you an accurate result.
If your blood levels are low, you can raise them in a few different
ways. The best way to raise D levels is with sunlight.
Sunlight: a natural vegan vitamin D
rays that produce healthy, free, vegan vitamin D are the
ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. They are most prevalent at noon (1:00 pm
daylight savings time). To maximize vitamin D production:
nude or in a swim suit.
- Do not use
- Most importantly, do
not burn. Begin with just a few minutes and work up to 15
minutes on a side.
To prevent getting wrinkles on your face, wear a hat
face with a scarf. The rest of your body can soak up the vegan vitamin
live below 34 degrees north latitude (Los Angeles) or above 34 degrees
latitude (Adelaide), can
get enough UVB from the sun all year long.
In colder regions, there is
a "vitamin D winter" for a few months (or longer) when the sun is at
the wrong angle to stimulate D production. One fun way to solve this
problem is to vacation in Hawaii. :-)
Some researchers suggest using a tanning bed during the winter. The
tanning bed you choose
must produce 3 to 5% UVB
rays, or 290-315 nm UVB. The remaining 95% to 97% will be UVA, which
does not cause D
production. As with sunbathing, do not use sunscreen, and be
careful not to burn. Newer tanning beds are more powerful than
If you are concerned about skin cancer, see our discussion at the
bottom of the page.
If you can't get enough sun and prefer not to use a tanning bed, you
may want to take a vegan vitamin D supplement.
Vegan vitamin D supplements
There are two types of vitamin D supplements.
Some studies show that it takes three times as much
D2 to raise our D levels as it does D3. And D2 is depleted in just a
days, while D3 lasts for weeks. At one time, researchers were also
concerned that vitamin D2 was synthetic (not
natural) and might form harmful byproducts.
- Vitamin D3
(cholecalciferol) is the type of vitamin D that our bodies make when
exposed to the sun. D3 supplements are not vegan. They are made from
from rendered sheep fat or fish livers. Cow's
milk and margarine are usually fortified
with vitamin D3.
D2 (ergocalciferol) is a vegan vitamin D made from yeast. Soy milk is
often fortified with vitamin D2.
However, most vegan dietitians now agree that vitamin D2 is safe and
effective in raising blood levels of vitamin D. People who are vitamin
D deficient usually take more than the RDA of D2, often 1000 - 2000 IU
Vegans who prefer not to sunbathe or take pills have another option:
get your vegan vitamin D from food. Check the labels of your soy milk and
other vegan products for added D2. What if you find that the quantities
of D2 in your vegan products are not enough? There is an exciting new
Vegan vitamin D foods:
some mushrooms are
exposed to UV light, they can actually produce vitamin D2. Some
companies now treat mushrooms this way. One company
Mushrooms. Dole also sells light-treated portobello
mushrooms. Only 2/3 cup of their fresh portobellos contains 400 IU of
vitamin D2. Do they work? The research says yes.
In one study, people got 28,000 IU vitamin D2 once a week for 4 weeks.
One group got their D2 from supplements and a second group from light- treated
At the end of the study, people taking the supplements raised their
average blood levels of D from 29 to 58 nmol/l. Those
eating mushrooms raised theirs from 34 to 57 nmol/l. In the
placebo group, blood levels of D decreased.
We have heard that the Dole Nutrition Institute also sells a
convenient Portobello Mushroom Powder that contains 600 IU of vegan vitamin D in
teaspoon of powder. We haven't tried it, but people say it
tastes great and is easy to use. You can put it in soups, stews,
casseroles, sauces, and dressings. One woman puts it in her desserts
and loves the taste. She says it tastes like chocolate.......?
While researching this article, we learned some interesting facts about sunlight exposure and skin cancer.
What about skin cancer?
Many people fear that
sunbathing unprotected will cause skin cancer. The risk of non-melanoma
skin cancer (NMSC) is very low in people who eat a low
with a high intake of phytonutrients. As a healthy vegan, your diet
should be rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. You can also reduce
your risk of NMSC by getting adequate omega 3 fats in your diet.
the deadly form of skin cancer, is not linked with small amounts of
unprotected sun exposure. It is linked with sunburn and with
sunscreen use! Suntan lotion that blocks UVB still lets UVA through to
the deeper layers of the skin. You might not burn on the surface of the
skin, but the UVA rays are still causing damage that can lead to
vitamin D levels are linked with lower rates of melanoma and of serious
internal cancers. You can dramatically lower your risk of breast
cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and many other cancers by
keeping your vitamin D levels high.
On a lighter note, vitamin D
probably helps to control weight. Obesity rates are lower in regions
near the equator where sun is plentiful and vitamin D levels are high.
And in lab
vitamin D inhibits the production of fat and fat cells. Isn't it great
that sunlight, the best source of vegan vitamin D, can help with weight
If all of these claims
about vitamin D are hard for you to believe, we suggest you read
"Vitamin D3 and Solar Power for Optimum Health" by Marc Sorenson, EdD.
It is an excellent summary of the current research, with 37 pages of
references from the medical literature.