Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is an essential vitamin for health. It helps your body absorb calcium. It is also very important for brain development, heart health, immune system and mental health.
Vitamin D deficiency is common worldwide. In vitamin D deficiency; muscle aches, weak bones, fatigue and inability to grow in height in children can be seen. Children under 12 months should get 400 IU (10 mcg) of vitamin D daily, and children 1-13 years old should get 600 IU (15 mcg) of vitamin D daily. Adults and pregnant or breastfeeding women should get 600 and 800 IU (15 and 20 mcg) of vitamin D per day.
Very few foods contain vitamin D, mostly animal products. Therefore, it can be difficult to get vitamin D from what you eat, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Here are the best sources of vitamin D for vegetarians.
Egg yolks provide vitamin D, but the amount of vitamin D they provide depends on what chickens eat and how much they go outdoors.
For example, eggs from chickens fed vitamin D-enriched feed may contain up to 6,000 IU (150 mcg) of vitamin D per yolk, while eggs from hens fed regular feed only 18–39 IU (0.4 –1 mcg). Similarly, chickens that are allowed to roam outdoors are exposed to sunlight and typically lay eggs that contain 3-4 times more vitamin D than chickens raised indoors.
Your skin can produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Sunbathing your face, arms, and legs for 5-30 minutes twice a week (without sunscreen) is usually sufficient to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. However, depending on your geographic location or climate, your exposure to direct sunlight may not be correct. Additional factors such as the season, time of day, pollution or smoke level, as well as your age, skin color, and sunscreen use affect your skin’s ability to produce enough vitamin D. For example, smoke or clouds can reduce the power of UV rays by up to 60 percent. Also, older adults and those with darker skin tones may need more than 30 minutes of sun exposure to produce enough vitamin D.
Excessive sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer. Therefore, it is best not to rely too heavily on the sun as a source of vitamin D.
Mushrooms have a unique ability to produce vitamin D when exposed to UV light. This makes them the only edible plant source of vitamin D. For example, wild mushrooms and those artificially exposed to UV light may contain between 154 and 1,136 IU (3.8 and 28 mcg) of vitamin D per 100 grams.
The vitamin D content in mushrooms remains high throughout their shelf life and appears to be as effective as vitamin D supplements for raising the levels of this vitamin in your body. However, most mushrooms sold grow in the dark and are not exposed to UV light, which means they contain very little vitamin D. When shopping, look for a note on the label that mentions vitamin D content. If you have trouble finding mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light, you may have better luck at local markets.
Note that not all wild mushrooms are edible. Eating poisonous ones can cause anything from mild indigestion to organ failure and even death. For this reason, you should not consume your own wild mushrooms unless you are expertly trained.
If you are concerned that you are not getting enough vitamin D from your diet, you can turn to supplements.
Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms:
Vitamin D2: Typically derived from fungi that have been exposed to UV rays.
Vitamin D3: Usually derived from fish oil, vegan forms are developed from lichen.
Vitamin D3 appears to be more effective than D2 at raising vitamin D levels when taken in amounts of 50,000 IU (1,250 mcg) or higher. When taken in smaller daily doses, the advantage of D3 over D2 appears to be smaller. By reading the label, you can understand which type of supplement your supplement contains. Most lichen-derived D3 supplements also include vegan certification on the label.
Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, eating with fatty foods can help increase its absorption. Note that the amount you need daily is 400-800 IU (10-20 mcg), depending on factors such as age and pregnancy. Prolonged exceeding of this dose is not recommended as it may cause toxicity. Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity; kidney failure, difficulty concentrating, depression, abdominal pain, vomiting, high blood pressure, hearing loss and psychosis.