Are you tired of feeling tired? We all need vitamin D, and as summer winds down, it can be hard to get enough. Maybe you’ve heard that sunlight is the best source, but let’s be real – most of us aren’t outside that much, especially this time of year. The good news is, there are plenty of delicious vegan foods high in vitamin D. Before you reach for an expensive supplement, check out this list of 10 surprising vegan foods that can boost your vitamin D intake. You’ll be feeling energized in no time.
Why Vitamin D Matters for Health
Vitamin D is crucial for your health and well-being. This important vitamin helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are essential minerals for building and maintaining strong bones.
Without enough vitamin D, your bones can become weak and brittle, leading to conditions like rickets (in children) and osteoporosis (in grown up). Vitamin D supplements or foods fortified with vitamin D, along with calcium, have been shown to help prevent bone loss and fractures as you age.
But vitamin D does more than just build strong bones. It may also:
- Boost your immunity. Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system and may help fight infections.
- Improve muscle strength. Vitamin D is important for muscle health and low levels may lead to muscle aches, pain, and weakness.
- Reduce inflammation. Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory effects and may help ease inflammation-related conditions like arthritis.
- Improve mood. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression and low mood. Supplements or sun exposure may help boost your mood and ease symptoms of depression.
The best way to get vitamin D is through direct sun exposure. Spending just 15-30 minutes outside during the middle of the day, without sunscreen, can provide a healthy boost of vitamin D. However, if sun exposure isn’t possible, consuming more vitamin D-rich vegan foods, like mushrooms, fortified nut milk or juice, and nutritional yeast, can help ensure you get enough of this vital sunshine vitamin.
Mushrooms – A Vegan Vitamin D Powerhouse
Mushrooms are one of the best vegan sources of vitamin D. Just half a cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms contains a whopping 40% of your daily vitamin D requirement.
- Shiitake mushrooms in particular are vitamin D powerhouses. When exposed to UV light, they produce vitamin D2 which is then absorbed by your body. Growers often expose shiitakes to UV light before harvesting to increase their vitamin D content.
- Mushrooms also contain B vitamins, copper, potassium, selenium and antioxidants. They have been shown to boost immunity and may even help fight cancer. Mushrooms are low in calories but filling, so they’re great for weight loss and management.
Cooking with Mushrooms
There are so many delicious ways to eat mushrooms. Sautéed mushrooms are amazing on their own, or you can add them to pasta dishes, risottos, stir fries and omelets. Mushroom burgers and mushroom bacon are popular meat substitutes. You can also make mushroom gravy, mushroom soup, or mushroom stew.
Mushrooms have a natural umami flavor, so they add a savory meaty quality to any dish. Their texture is also naturally hearty and satisfying. If you’ve never been a huge mushroom fan, start by adding just a few mushrooms to your favorite dishes. You’ll be surprised at how much flavor and texture they provide without overpowering the other ingredients. Mushrooms blend in but they really elevate a dish.
So there you have it, an easy way to get more vitamin D in your diet and discover a new plant-based ingredient. Mushrooms should be a staple in any vegan kitchen. Give them a try today!
Soy Milk Fortified With Vitamin D
Fortified soy milk is a surprising source of Vitamin D for vegans. Many brands now offer soy milk enriched with Vitamin D2 or D3. Just one cup can provide between 30 to 50% of your daily Vitamin D needs.
Look for Fortified Varieties
Not all soy milks contain Vitamin D, so be sure to check the nutrition label. Look for terms like “Vitamin D fortified,” “enriched with Vitamin D,” or “contains added Vitamin D.” The actual amount of Vitamin D added can range from 30 to 50% of the recommended daily intake per cup. Popular brands like Silk, So Delicious and WestSoy all offer fortified options.
Compare Nutrition Facts
The precise amount of Vitamin D added can vary between soy milk brands and types. Compare nutrition labels to choose a product with at least 30% of the daily Vitamin D requirement (which is 600 IU) per serving. Soy milks fortified with Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) can both help meet your needs. Vitamin D3 may be slightly more potent, but both forms are effective.
Use in Place of Dairy Milk
Fortified soy milk can be used as a one-to-one replacement for cow’s milk in many foods and beverages. Use it on cereal, in coffee or smoothies, for baking, or drink it straight from the glass. Its neutral flavor and creamy texture make it ideal for mixing into recipes. One cup of fortified soy milk provides the same amount of Vitamin D as a cup of cow’s milk.
Get More Vitamin D From Other Sources Too
While fortified soy milk can be part of a balanced diet, also aim to get Vitamin D from other sources like:
• Sunlight – Spend 10 to 30 minutes outside a few times a week with some skin exposed.
• Mushrooms – Shiitake and other mushrooms exposed to UV light contain Vitamin D.
• Supplements – If needed, take a daily Vitamin D supplement of 600 to 800 IU.
• Calciferol – Some vegan foods are fortified with Vitamin D in the form of calciferol, such as certain brands of orange juice, cereal and nutritional yeast.
With the right combination of fortified foods, sun exposure and possibly a supplement, you can get all the Vitamin D you need as a vegan without consuming any animal products. Fortified soy milk in moderation, as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle, can absolutely help in meeting your daily Vitamin D requirements.
Orange Juice Fortified With Vitamin D
One of the most surprising sources of vegan vitamin D is fortified orange juice. Many brands now offer orange juice fortified with vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium, and other nutrients. Fortified orange juice can contain up to 100% of your daily vitamin D needs in just one 8 ounce glass.
Look for brands with “fortified with vitamin D” clearly marked on the packaging. The actual amount of added vitamin D can vary between brands, so check the nutritional label to determine how much vitamin D is in a single serving. For the best absorption, choose an orange juice with added calcium and vitamin C as well, since these nutrients help with vitamin D uptake in your body.
Fortified orange juice is a refreshing way to get your vitamin D, especially on hot summer days when you want something cold and hydrating. It has a naturally sweet flavor that masks the taste of added vitamin D. Fortified OJ can be enjoyed on its own, used as a mixer in cocktails, or poured over fruit and yogurt parfaits.
Compared to supplements, fortified orange juice may be easier for some people to incorporate into their daily routine. However, it may contain a lot of sugar, so you’ll want to account for the extra calories. Fortified orange juice also has a shorter shelf life than supplements, so check the “best by” date to ensure maximum vitamin D content.
Other citrus juices like grapefruit juice are sometimes fortified with vitamin D as well. In general, the more vitamin D listed on the nutrition facts label, the better. Aim for at least 20 to 50 percent of your daily needs of 600 to 800 IU per 8 ounce serving. While not a perfect solution, fortified orange juice and other juices can be part of a balanced diet to help vegans meet their vitamin D needs.
Cereals Fortified With Vitamin D
Cereals fortified with vitamin D are a surprising source for vegans. Many popular brands now add vitamin D to their cereals, especially those aimed at children and families.
Look for D-fortified cereals
Check the nutrition label and ingredient list to find cereals with added vitamin D. Some good options include:
- Many Cheerios varieties like Honey Nut Cheerios, Frosted Cheerios and Fruity Cheerios contain around 40-50% of your daily vitamin D needs per serving.
- Certain Kellogg’s cereals add vitamin D, such as Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes and Fruit Loops.
- General Mills cereals like Lucky Charms, Trix and Cookie Crisp have significant amounts of added vitamin D.
- Store brand cereals, organic cereals and high-fiber cereals may also be fortified, so check the labels.
For the most vitamin D, choose a cereal with at least 30-40% of the Daily Value of vitamin D per serving. The more you eat, the more you’ll get, but keep an eye on the sugar. Some cereals can be high in sugar, so balance your bowl with nuts, fresh or frozen fruit.
Why vitamin D fortification?
Many people, especially vegans, don’t get enough vitamin D. Fortifying foods with vitamin D helps address this deficiency in a convenient and cost-effective way. Vitamin D is important for bone health, immune function and may help prevent some chronic diseases.
While the amounts added to cereals won’t provide your total needs, consuming D-fortified foods is an easy way to boost your intake. Combine cereal with other vitamin D sources like plant milks, mushrooms, and supplements, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting the recommended 600 IU per day.
Eating cereals fortified with vitamin D is one of the simplest ways vegans can up their D. Check the nutrition facts panel, choose a high-vitamin D option and enjoy your bowl! Your bones and body will thank you.
Tofu Made With Calcium Sulfate
Tofu is a staple in many vegan diets, providing a good source of plant-based protein. However, not all tofu is created equal. For vitamin D, look for tofu that is made with calcium sulfate, also known as gypsum. This form of tofu has been prepared using a coagulant that is high in calcium, an important mineral for bone health and vitamin D absorption.
Compared to regular tofu, the calcium sulfate variety contains much more calcium, up to 861 milligrams per half cup. That’s about 86% of your daily needs. The extra calcium helps your body properly metabolize vitamin D from both food sources and sun exposure. Vitamin D and calcium work together in many ways, including maintaining bone density and strength.
When shopping, check the ingredients and nutrition label to find tofu made with calcium sulfate. Popular brands of calcium-set tofu include Nasoya, Wildwood and Trader Joe’s. These tend to be a bit more crumbly in texture than regular tofu. However, they work great in stir fries, scrambles, and creamy dressings. You can also simply pan-fry cubes of calcium sulfate tofu with a little oil and tamari or soy sauce for a quick snack.
In addition to calcium, calcium sulfate tofu contains many other bone-strengthening minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. It’s a highly nutritious plant-based source of healthy fats, protein and several vitamins as well. For the most vitamin D, choose a brand that’s also fortified with vitamin D2, the vegan form of this essential nutrient. Fortified tofu can provide up to 38% of your daily vitamin D needs per half cup serving.
Between the calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients, calcium sulfate tofu is a superstar ingredient for bone and overall health. Add it to your weekly meal plan and you’ll be well on your way to getting enough of this important vitamin in your vegan diet.
Vegan Yogurts Fortified With Vitamin D
Vegan yogurts are a great source of vitamin D, especially those fortified with added vitamin D2 or D3. Here are some delicious options to try:
Many vegan yogurt brands use coconut milk as a base. Two popular fortified brands are:
- So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative – Contains 20% of your daily vitamin D in one 6 oz serving. Flavors like Vanilla and Strawberry are enriched with vitamin D2.
-Kite Hill Artisanal Nut-Based Yogurts – Their almond milk yogurt contains 25% of your daily vitamin D per 5.3 oz cup. Both plain and vanilla flavors are fortified with vitamin D2.
Almond milk yogurts provide a creamy, protein-packed alternative. Look for:
-Malk Organics Almond Milk Yogurt – With 20% of your daily vitamin D in a single 5.3 oz container, flavors like Vanilla Bean and Maple are enriched with vitamin D2.
-Maple Hill Creamery Almond Milk Yogurt – One cup of their plain or vanilla almond milk yogurt has 50% of your daily vitamin D, fortified with vitamin D2.
For vegans looking for a yogurt high in protein, soy-based varieties can fit the bill. Two fortified options are:
-Wildwood Organics Soy Yogurt – Their plain and vanilla soy yogurts provide 35% of your daily vitamin D per 6 oz serving, enriched with D2.
-Stonyfield Organic Dairy-Free Soy Yogurt – With 20% of your daily vitamin D in a 6 oz container, their plain, vanilla and strawberry soy yogurts are fortified with D2.
Vegan yogurts provide a simple way to boost your vitamin D levels and support your bone health. Be on the lookout for fortified varieties and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your needs.
Vegan and Vegetarian Vitamin D Supplements
As a vegan, getting enough vitamin D in your diet can be challenging since most sources are animal-based. However, there are a few options for vegan and vegetarian vitamin D supplements you can try.
Vitamin D2 Supplements
Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, is produced from yeast and plant sterols. D2 supplements tend to be less potent than D3 supplements, so you may need a higher dose to reach the recommended daily amount of 600 IU. Look for a vegan-friendly D2 supplement that provides at least 2,000 IU per serving.
Vitamin D3 Supplements
Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is the form of vitamin D that is naturally produced in human skin. Synthetic D3 is sourced from lanolin, a waxy substance found in sheep’s wool. However, some vegan D3 supplements are made from lichen. If you can find a vegan D3 supplement, it may be a bit more potent than D2. Aim for at least 2,000 IU per serving.
Vitamin D + Calcium Supplements
Since vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, you may want to consider a combined supplement that contains both vitamin D and calcium. Look for a vegan formula with D3 sourced from lichen and at least 600 mg of calcium to meet the recommended daily amount. The vitamin D dosage should be at least 600 IU.
Liquid Vitamin D Supplements
For those who have trouble swallowing pills, liquid vitamin D supplements can be a good option. Look for a vegan formula that contains at least 2,000 IU of vitamin D2 or D3 per serving. Liquid supplements tend to cost a bit more but can be a more pleasant experience for some.
By choosing a high-quality vegan vitamin D supplement and the proper dosage for your needs, you can maintain healthy levels of this important nutrient and support bone health as a vegan. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your vitamin D levels.
Seaweed Vegan Foods High in Vitamin D
Seaweed is one of the most vitamin D-rich vegan foods. Certain types like nori, kombu, and wakame contain high amounts of vitamin D2, which your body can convert to the active form of vitamin D.
Nori seaweed, used to make sushi rolls, is an excellent source of vitamin D. Just one sheet (about 8 grams) contains around 15% of your daily vitamin D needs. Nori also has fiber, protein, and various minerals like manganese and copper. You can find nori at most grocery stores and Asian markets. Add it to salads, soups, or rice bowls for an easy vitamin D boost.
Kombu is a type of kelp seaweed commonly used to make dashi stock in Japanese cooking. It is rich in nutrients like vitamin D, iodine, and magnesium. Two tablespoons (about 10 grams) of crumbled kombu contains over 150% of your daily vitamin D requirement. Kombu has a very strong, savory flavor, so it is usually used as a seasoning or light soup base. You can find kombu dried or in brine at Asian specialty stores.
Wakame is another seaweed variety popular in Japanese and Korean cuisine. It has a subtle, slightly sweet seaweed flavor and a soft, silky texture. Just 1/2 cup of cooked wakame seaweed has over 100% of your daily vitamin D needs. Wakame is also high in folate, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Add cooked wakame to salads, noodles, and rice bowls. Dried wakame can be found at most Asian markets and natural grocery stores.
As you can see, seaweed offers a variety of options to boost your vitamin D intake in a vegan diet. Add just a little bit to your meals and snacks for a big nutritional payoff. Seaweed has so many benefits, and vitamin D is just one of them. Try different kinds and see which you enjoy!
Fortified almond milk
Almond milk has come a long way. Once a niche product found only in health food stores, almond milk has gone mainstream. The demand for non-dairy milk alternatives has skyrocketed, and almond milk tops the list.
One of the benefits of almond milk is that it’s naturally lactose-free and vegan. For those with dairy allergies or sensitivities, almond milk provides a creamy plant-based alternative without the digestive distress. Many commercial almond milks are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which provides an added nutritional boost.
Look for almond milks with at least 20-30% of your daily vitamin D needs (around 20-30% of 600 IU) per cup. Some brands offer almond milks fortified with up to 50% of the daily value. While almonds themselves contain little vitamin D, the fortified versions help close the gap for those avoiding dairy and fish.
The vitamin D added to almond milk is plant-based vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Although animal-based vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is more effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D, D2 from fortified foods like almond milk still provides benefit. For most people, fortified almond milk can absolutely help meet your daily needs for bone-building vitamin D, especially when combined with limited sun exposure and a balanced diet.
However, almond milk alone likely won’t provide all the vitamin D you need. Aim for getting additional vitamin D from other sources like fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms or supplements. The current recommended intake for vitamin D is 600 IU per day for most people of mature age.
In the end, fortified almond milk can absolutely be part of a healthy diet and help support your vitamin D needs. Just be sure to shake the carton well before pouring and check the Nutrition Facts to ensure you’re getting a dose of vitamin D with each glass. Your bones will thank you!
Getting Adequate Sun Exposure for Vitamin D Production
Getting adequate sun exposure is critical for your body to produce vitamin D. As vegans, most of us don’t get vitamin D from our diet alone. Our skin actually produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Here are some tips to make sure you get enough sun for vitamin D:
Go outside during the middle of the day.
The sun’s UVB rays, which stimulate vitamin D production, are most intense between 10 AM to 3 PM. Aim for 10 to 30 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week during these hours. Be sure to wear sunscreen to protect from sun damage and skin cancer risk.
Expose more skin.
The more skin you expose, the more vitamin D you can produce. Try going outside with your arms and legs uncovered and without a hat. But remember, limit sun exposure and use sun protection.
If sun exposure is not an option for you, vitamin D supplements can help ensure you get adequate levels. The typical dosage recommendation for vegans and those deficient in vitamin D is 600 to 800 IU per day. Your doctor can check your blood levels to determine if you need a higher dose.
Be cautious of tanning beds.
While tanning beds do emit UVB rays to stimulate vitamin D production, they also emit UVA rays which can cause skin damage and increase cancer risk. Tanning beds are not a safe alternative and should be avoided.
Getting some midday sun exposure, exposing more skin, using supplements, and avoiding tanning beds are all effective ways for vegans to boost vitamin D levels. By following these tips, you can ensure your body gets the vitamin D it needs to support bone, muscle and immune health.
So there you have it – 10 surprisingly delicious vegan foods packed with vitamin D. No need to miss out on the sunshine vitamin just because you’re following a plant-based diet. With options like orange juice, mushrooms, and tofu readily available, getting your daily dose of D is easier than you may have thought. And don’t forget the fortified foods – they were made for people like you in mind. Who knew a single cup of OJ or bowl of cereal could deliver 100% of your needs? The next time you’re feeling a little low on energy or motivation, turn to one of these vitamin D all-stars. Your body and mind will thank you for it.