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Best sources of vitamin D for vegetarians

Vitamin D, like all vitamins that humans need, plays an influential role in our overall health, helping to ensure bones, teeth, and muscles are healthy and strong. And there’s also some evidence that vitamin D can provide a protective defence against certain diseases, too. 

In most cases, people get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight and through their diet. 

However, this isn’t always the case. It can be a challenge for vegetarians, for example, to get their daily allowance of vitamin D due to their dietary restrictions. People with unrestricted diets get their vitamin D from red meat, liver, and oily fish such as salmon and sardines, all of which will be off the menu for full-time vegetarians. 

And the challenge is even greater for vegans, who are unable to have eggs or fortified milk, both of which are good sources of vitamin D. 

While there are other health benefits of following a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s important to pay attention to your vitamin D levels, since being deficient in this vitamin can lead to a host of body-related issues. For example, you’ll be more likely to sustain stress fractures, experience tiredness and aches, and have muscle pain and/or weakness. 

The good news is that you don’t need to consume animal products to get vitamin D. 

While they are the most common dietary source,  there are other options available to you! In this blog, we’ll run through the best vitamin D sources for vegetarian people. 

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is both a hormone and a nutrient. 

Our body naturally produces vitamin D (in the shape of a hormone) when exposed to the sun, but we also get our intake via the food we eat. It helps to regulate some key functions in our bodies, including calcium and phosphorus, and contributes to healthy cell growth and repair. 

There’s also evidence that it can help to minimise the risk of certain cancers and diseases, as well as boost the immune system and ward off illnesses. 

Scientists haven’t yet discovered everything that we need vitamin D for, but given that the every single cell in our body has receptors for vitamin D , it’s fair to say that it’s important.  

In addition to helping our bodies function correctly, there’s also evidence to suggest that the vitamin can enhance our moods and aid weight loss. In other words: it’s essential! So how much vitamin D does your body need

People over the age of 1 year old require 10 micrograms of vitamin D each, while babies under the age of 1 require 8.5 grams a day. Our post on how much vitamin D you need, has even more info on knowing how much vitamin D to consume all year round, check it out here.

Why Vitamin D Is Important For Vegetarians

Most people get all the vitamin D they need from the sun and from their diet. While vegetarians can make their own vitamin D on those clear blue sky days, they often struggle to get their allowance via their diet because most food products that contain the vitamin are animal-based. 

In the UK, it’s only possible to get vitamin D from sunlight from the end of March through to the end of September. 

That leaves many months when vegetarians and vegans may have depleted levels of vitamin D because they are unable to eat vitamin D-heavy foods, such as red meat. 

This vitamin D deficiency can lead to a whole host of health problems, ranging from mild to serious. 

On the mild side, people that do not have adequate vitamin D levels may experience sleeping problems, pale skin, fatigue, and thinning hair. On the more serious side, vitamin D deficiency can lead to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline. 

For more information on the vitamins lacking in a vegetarian diet, check out our blog post here on all there is to know about it. 

Sources Of Vitamin D For Vegetarians

No meat? No problem. There are plenty of other sources of vitamin D that vegetarians can take advantage of, including:

Plant Based Foods That Are Rich In Vitamin D

There’s been an influx of plant-based foods on supermarket shelves thanks to the increasing numbers of people adopting a vegetarian/vegan diet. Next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up the following items:

  • Mushrooms (ideally that have been exposed to UV light)
  • Fortified plant-based milk and yoghurts
  • Fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice
  • Tofu and tempeh (if fortified with vitamin D)

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that while these products will help your vitamin D levels, you may not eat enough of them to obtain all the vitamin D that you need. As such, ensuring you get enough sunshine or topping up your diet with vitamin D supplements such as our own vitamin D drinks is a great place to start.

Sunshine

Everyone’s happier when the sun is shining, especially your body, which will have a direct source of vitamin D. Your body naturally produces vitamin D from sunlight, so be sure to head outside on sunny days to get your fill.

However, keep in mind that several factors can limit your body’s ability to produce vitamin D, including wearing sun lotion, the time of year (the sun isn’t strong enough from October - March), the time of day (its strongest at midday), and your skin colour (darker complexions produce vitamin D more slowly). 

Our post on should you take vitamin D in the summer has even more interesting facts on vitamin D, plus useful information on your vitamin D intake during the summer months.

Supplements

The easiest, most effective way to increase your vitamin D intake is to take vitamin D supplements. 

There are vegetarian and vegan-friendly supplement drinks available that can make up for the lack of vitamin D you receive from your diet and sunlight. 

Even if you do eat fortified foods, supplements can ensure that you get your full daily allowance. We’re happy to offer a range of vitamin D drinks, as well as vegan-friendly vitamin D drinks.  

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, it’s essential that all people ensure that they have sufficient levels of vitamin D. While between March and September, it’s possible to get your recommended daily allowance of vitamin D from sunlight, in the autumn and winter months, your intake will come solely from your diet. 

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then it’s recommended to take extra steps to ensure you get the vitamin D your body needs. You can do this by increasing your intake of the following animal-free products:

  • Mushrooms.
  • Vitamin D-fortified tempeh and tofu.
  • Vitamin D-fortified plant-based milk and yoghurts.
  • Vitamin D-fortified orange juice and breakfast cereals. 
  • Vitamin D drinks, such as those available from Get More Vits.

We recommend filling your cupboards with these products even during the summer months. While you can get vitamin D on a cloudy day, your body won’t produce it if you stay inside all day because of a torrential downpour (which we all know can happen during a British summer!).

Author

Becky Graham

Lead Nutritionist & Communications - Get More Vits