Vitamin d in vegetables

Contents

Vegetables High In Vitamin D: Eating Vegetables For Vitamin D Intake

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient. The human body needs it in order to absorb calcium and magnesium, which are necessary for healthy bones and teeth. While some people get enough Vitamin D naturally, some don’t, and some need a little extra. Keep reading to learn more about Vitamin D rich veggies.

Eating Vegetables for Vitamin D Intake

Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because the human body produces it naturally when it is exposed to sun. Because of this, the simple act of gardening can do a lot to help your body produce the Vitamin D it needs. It doesn’t matter what you grow – as long as you’re out in the sunshine regularly, you’re doing your body good.

How well this works varies, however, and can depend upon a number of things like skin tone, time of year, and the presence of sunscreen. People over 70 also need extra Vitamin D to promote healthy bones. Because of this, it’s important for many people to seek out ways to supplement their Vitamin D intake. One effective way is through diet.

Vegetables High in Vitamin D

The most famous dietary source of Vitamin D is, of course, milk. But is there any Vitamin D in vegetables? The short answer is not particularly. Vegetables do a lot for us, but supplying Vitamin D is not one of their strong suits. There is, however, one major exception: mushrooms.

While they are not really vegetables in the strictest sense, mushrooms can be grown at home. And they contain a decent amount of Vitamin D… as long as you put them in the sun first. Mushrooms convert sunshine to vitamin D just like humans do.

Unwrap your mushrooms and place them in direct sunlight at least one hour before eating – this should increase their Vitamin D content and, as soon as you consume them, it should increase yours, too.

Your diet can provide adequate vitamin D if you know which foods to include on your plate.

Vitamin D deficiency is a very common problem today. Many people don’t realize that they should be eating more vitamin D foods. If you’re unaware whether your diet provides enough vitamin D or not, then you’re likely not eating enough, these foods are quite rare and have to sourced properly.

Chronic diseases are often associated with low vitamin D. Don’t put yourself at risk, make the simple changes to your meals today.

In this article, I’ll give you 6 of the richest vitamin D foods sources for your daily intake.

Is your Diet Providing Enough Vitamin D?

If you suffer any of the following problems, you should consider eating more vitamin D rich food sources.

  • Tooth Decay
  • Bleeding gums and gum disease
  • Irritable bowel disease or other digestive conditions
  • Auto-immune conditions
  • Type-II diabetes
  • Snoring, teeth grinding or sleep apnea
  • Arthritis, sore joints, back, and neck pain
  • Brain-fog, dementia, Alzheimer’s diseas

For more information on the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, read this article here.

5 Reasons to Eat More Vitamin D Rich Food Sources

Our modern diets have stripped many of the best dietary sources of vitamin D foods.

A recent study of Russian traditional populations showed that when they eat the modern diet, vitamin D intake decreases as well as vitamin D levels. It concluded:

“The modernized way of life has led to a decrease in the consumption of traditional foods among the indigenous people of the Russian Arctic.”

Why are vitamin D rich diets so rare today?

  1. It wasn’t until recently, that we began to understand that vitamin D is synthesized by exposure to the sun.
  2. Strong bones and teeth need vitamin D. The osteo-immune system is hungry for vitamin D to control hormonal signaling for your bones and immune system.
  3. Vitamin D deficiency is thought to increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
  4. Low-fat diets have stripped vitamin D from the diet. The trend in the last 50 years to eat low-fat foods
  5. Vitamin D is linked to many chronic diseases including digestive, auto-immune, and mental conditions.

How do I get more Vitamin D from food?

Each time you eat, one of the main things you should be thinking about is whether your foods are providing enough vitamin D.

To obtain more vitamin D from your diet there are a few principles you need to know. Firstly, you need to eat more fat. As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D needs to be consumed with a fatty meal.

That’s why vitamin D rich food sources are great to incorporate into your daily meal regime. They come packaged with all the fat you need.

Also, the source of your vitamin D rich food needs to be from a natural, organic source. For example, if an animal does not receive enough sunlight, it may not produce a rich vitamin D food source.

What is the Best Way to Absorb Vitamin D?

Sunlight is the best way. But there are many health conditions that can prevent you from getting adequate vitamin D levels from sun.

Always test your vitamin D levels, and depending on the climate you live in, it’s likely you need to eat more vitamin D from your diet.

Home Vitamin D Testing Kits

To test your vitamin d levels, there are a number of At-Home Options:

Vitamin D Council-> Get It Here

Physicians Best -> Get It Here

ZRT Lab – > Get It Here

Animal Sources vs. Plant Sources of Vitamin D

There are two types of vitamin D you can consume. Vitamin D3 is the active form and comes from animal sources. Vitamin D2 comes from plant sources.

You need to eat vitamin D3 as it’s the active form of vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D2 can compete against vitamin D3 and may decrease your overall active levels of D3.

To read more check out this article here.

Should you take Vitamin D Supplements?

If you suffer conditions relating to vitamin D deficiency, supplements may help to obtain adequate vitamin D levels. That said, for 1000s of years, our ancestors ate diets rich in vitamin D and never had access to vitamin D supplements.

Consult your physician before taking vitamin D supplements.

The Vitamin D Diet Plan: 6 Rich Vitamin D Food Sources

  1. Salmon & Fatty Fish

    Ocean grown fatty-fish are rich sources of vitamin D. One problem is that fatty-fish must be naturally raised and ocean-sourced. Most of the salmon and other supermarket bought fish are farmed and don’t receive natural food sources.

  2. Beef Liver

    Organ meats are one of the rare food sources rich in vitamin D. They contain the full range of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 as well as B-Vitamins, minerals, and nutrients not found in other foods. Eating more organ meats may seem unpalatable to some (I find it takes some getting used to and certain recipes make it delicious). However, if you think you’ll struggle, here’s a desiccated beef liver supplement sourced from grass-raised Argentinian Cows. They allow a food-based way to get your daily dose of vitamin D.

Buy 100% grass-raised desiccated beef liver capsules: Here

  1. Cod-liver Oil

    Many people confuse cod-liver oil with fish-oil supplements. Cod-liver oil is different to fish-oil supplements you see on the shelf. . In short, cod-liver oil is a nutrient-dense source of essential vitamins including vitamin D and vitamin A as well as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Always purchase the highest quality cod-liver oil. I recommend Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil as it’s sourced directly from the fish to obtain highest levels of naturally occurring vitamin D.

Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (EVCLO): Free Oil

Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil (EVCLO): Soft Gels

  1. Ghee

    Ghee is similar to clarified butter which is heated to remove proteins and is simmered longer to bring out the butter’s inherent nutty flavor and is left with a higher smoke point than butter, meaning that it can be heated to a higher temperature before it starts to smoke. Adding Ghee as your cooking fat is a great way to eat a food rich in vitamin D. Always remember it needs to come from grass-fed, organically raised animals.

You can Buy 100% Grass-Raised Ghee Here:

  1. Emu oil

    Here’s one you may not have heard of. Indigenous Australians treasured the mature back-fat of emus because of its healing and nourishing properties. Emu oil has the added benefit of being a vitamin D rich food source AND provides vitamin K2. I recommend this Emu-oil. You can buy it in oil form or in capsules for a great vitamin D rich food source.

You can Buy Walk About Emu Oil: Here

  1. Egg yolks

    Grass raised chickens to produce eggs that contain vitamin D3. Forget the egg-white omelets, vitamin d is only found in the yolk. It contains roughly 50 IU per egg, so you need to make a big frittata to get your full dose of vitamin D!

For the full 40-day plan to get more vitamin D in your diet. You can grab my book, The Dental Diet here on Amazon. It also tells the full story of how our teeth, including braces in kids today is likely caused by a deficiency in fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D.

Now we want to hear from you. Please leave your questions in the comments below.

For more information on Dr. Lin’s clinical protocol that highlights the steps parents can take to prevent dental problems in their children: .

The Top Natural Sources of Vitamin D

Wild-Caught Salmon

The best source of naturally occurring vitamin D is fatty fish. Salmon is a great choice. A 3.5 ounce serving of salmon contains between 360 IU and 1,300 IU according to nutrient databases. Whether it’s wild or farmed also makes a difference. A 2009 study, for example, found that wild-caught salmon contains 988 IU of vitamin D for a 3.5 ounce (300 gram) serving. Farmed salmon is said to have approximately 25% of the vitamin D as wild salmon.

Canned Sardines

In addition to vitamin D, sardines are one of the top sources of omega 3 fatty acids. They contain significant amounts of protein per serving and many important minerals to support your overall health and bone health! Furthermore, they’re also one of the least contaminated (lower on the food chain) and sustainable sources of fish, which is why you’ll commonly see sardines in omega 3 supplements.

Raw Oysters

Not the most appealing food on the list for some, raw oysters are low in calories and high in nutrients. In addition to being a good food source of vitamin D, (six raw oysters contain 269 IU or 67% of your RDI) they also contain vitamin B12, copper, phosphorus, and zinc. Copper, for instance, has been shown to have a positive impact on bone health.

Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil, a traditional omega 3 fatty acid, and vitamin D supplement have come a long way in taste since it was recommended in the 1960s. But, you still might prefer eating a can of tuna fish or fresh wild salmon instead! Note: most refined cod liver oils today have the vitamin D removed! Check your label to be certain.

Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is widely enjoyed because of its subtle flavor and convenience – as most households have one or two cans of tuna stowed away in their pantry at all times. Use it in sandwiches or salads to reap the benefits of this nutrient-dense food. One hundred grams (about the size of a hockey puck) contains 59% of your RDI vitamin D needs, plus magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium. Worried about heavy metals associated with larger fish, like tuna? A new selenium-containing compound called selenoneine has recently been identified in the bloodstream of tuna that may help explain why fish that contain more selenium than mercury is good for us. Selenoneine increases the rate at which mercury is detoxified and excreted by the fish –and thus their healthful effects on us, when we consume them. In other words, when we maintain healthy essential mineral levels, we are able to resist toxic ones. In fact, our Bone Health Expert Lara Pizzorno eats 1 Brazil nut, which is a selenium-rich food, after a meal that includes any type of fish (or includes it in the meal itself chopped up in a salad or in pesto etc.) as a detoxification method.

Shrimp

A popular type of shellfish that is low in fat compared to the other seafood sources with vitamin D. Four large shrimp contain 11% of your RDI of vitamin D. They also contain vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Fortified Foods

Since there are very few natural food sources that have adequate amounts of vitamin D, the solution has been to fortify foods with vitamin D. This began in the 1930s when the vitamin D deficiency disease called rickets was a major public health problem in the US. A milk “fortification” program was put in place, which, to its credit, nearly eliminated the condition. Currently, 98% of the milk supply in the US is fortified with 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per quart. Other foods that are commonly fortified with vitamin D include breakfast cereals, fruit juices, bread (in the leavening yeast) and margarine or other veggie spreads. Note: In a 2006 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers stipulated that vitamin D2, the variety used to fortify some foods, is inferior to vitamin D3. Other research found this to be because vitamin D2 has markedly lower potency and its effects don’t last nearly as long compared to vitamin D3. Check the label on your foods to see whether they have D3, listed as cholecalciferol, or D2, ergocalciferol.

Caviar

Caviar is a salt-cured roe (fish eggs) that can be eaten fresh or pasteurized. It can be eaten by itself, on crackers or even on scrambled eggs! If you do find yourself eating this delicacy know that black or red caviar contains 37 IU of vitamin D in just one tablespoon.

Egg Yolks

While the protein of an egg is found mostly in the egg white, vitamin D is mostly found in the egg yolk. Conventional egg yolks contain about 5% of your RDI of vitamin D – not high at all. However, free-range eggs have been shown to offer higher levels of vitamin D – as much as four times higher! Other pasture-raised animals like pigs may also produce more vitamin D. Pigs have skin like humans, which can store vitamin D in their fat under their skin. Exposure to sun, in addition to being grass-fed, contributes to pasture-raised animals having better mineral status. For instance, pasture-raised pigs also have 74% more selenium and 300% more vitamin E than conventional pigs, according to Professor Don C. Mahan from Ohio State University.

Mushrooms

Portobello, morel, button, white, and shiitake mushrooms all contain ergosterol, a vitamin D precursor. One cup still only has 13-15 IUs of the vitamin. According to some reports, you can set mushrooms out in the sun to boost their vitamin D content! The UV rays trigger a process called photosynthesis. This process increases Vitamin D levels in sun-exposed mushrooms and humans alike.

7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the only nutrient your body produces when exposed to sunlight.

However, up to 50% of the world’s population may not get enough sun, and 40% of U.S. residents are deficient in vitamin D (1, 2).

This is partly because people spend more time indoors, wear sunblock outside, and eat a Western diet low in good sources of this vitamin.

The recommended daily value (DV) is 800 IU (20 mcg) of vitamin D per day from foods (3).

If you don’t get enough sunlight, your intake should likely be closer to 1,000 IU (25 mcg) per day (4).

Here are 7 healthy foods that are high in vitamin D.

1. Salmon

Salmon is a popular fatty fish and great source of vitamin D.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Composition Database, one 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of farmed Atlantic salmon contains 526 IU of vitamin D, or 66% of the DV (5).

Whether the salmon is wild or farmed can make a big difference.

On average, wild-caught salmon packs 988 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 124% of the DV. Some studies have found even higher levels in wild salmon — up to 1,300 IU per serving (6, 7).

However, farmed salmon contains only 25% of that amount. Still, one serving of farmed salmon provides about 250 IU of vitamin D, or 32% of the DV (6).

Summary Wild salmon contains about 988 IU of vitamin D per serving, while farmed salmon contains 250 IU, on average. That’s 124% and 32% of the DV, respectively.

2. Herring and sardines

Herring is a fish eaten around the world. It can be served raw, canned, smoked, or pickled.

This small fish is also one of the best sources of vitamin D.

Fresh Atlantic herring provides 216 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is 27% of the DV (8).

If fresh fish isn’t your thing, pickled herring is also a good source of vitamin D, providing 112 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 14% of the DV.

However, pickled herring also contains a high amount of sodium, which some people consume too much of (9).

Canned sardines are a good source of vitamin D as well — one can (3.8 ounces) contains 177 IU, or 22% of the DV (10).

Other types of fatty fish are also good vitamin D sources. Halibut and mackerel provide 384 IU and 360 IU per half a fillet, respectively (11, 12).

Summary Herring contains 216 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. Pickled herring, sardines, and other fatty fish, such as halibut and mackerel, are also good sources.

3. Cod liver oil

Cod liver oil is a popular supplement. If you don’t like fish, taking cod liver oil can be key to obtaining certain nutrients that are unavailable in other sources.

It’s an excellent source of vitamin D — at about 448 IU per teaspoon (4.9 ml), it clocks in at a massive 56% of the DV. It has been used for many years to prevent and treat deficiency in children (13, 14).

Cod liver oil is likewise a fantastic source of vitamin A, with 150% of the DV in just one teaspoon (4.9 ml). However, vitamin A can be toxic in high amounts.

Therefore, be cautious with cod liver oil, making sure to not take too much.

In addition, cod liver oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which many people are deficient in.

Summary Cod liver oil contains 448 IU of vitamin D per teaspoon (4.9 ml), or 56% of the DV. It is also high in other nutrients, such as vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Canned tuna

Many people enjoy canned tuna because of its flavor and easy storage methods.

It’s also usually cheaper than buying fresh fish.

Canned light tuna packs up to 268 IU of vitamin D in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is 34% of the DV.

It’s also a good source of niacin and vitamin K (15).

Unfortunately, canned tuna contains methylmercury, a toxin found in many types of fish. If it builds up in your body, it can cause serious health problems (16).

However, some types of fish pose less risk than others. For instance, light tuna is typically a better choice than white tuna — it’s considered safe to eat up to 6 ounces (170 grams) per week (17).

Summary Canned tuna contains 268 IU of vitamin D per serving. Choose light tuna and eat 6 ounces (170 grams) or less per week to prevent methylmercury buildup.

5. Egg yolks

People who don’t eat fish should know that seafood is not the only source of vitamin D. Whole eggs are another good source, as well as a wonderfully nutritious food.

While most of the protein in an egg is found in the white, the fat, vitamins, and minerals are found mostly in the yolk.

One typical egg yolk contains 37 IU of vitamin D, or 5% of the DV (7, 24).

Vitamin D levels in egg yolk depend on sun exposure and the vitamin D content of chicken feed. When given the same feed, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels 3–4 times higher (25).

Additionally, eggs from chickens given vitamin-D-enriched feed may have up to 6,000 IU of vitamin D per yolk. That’s a whopping 7 times the DV (26).

Choosing eggs either from chickens raised outside or marketed as high in vitamin D can be a great way to meet your daily requirements.

Summary Eggs from commercially raised hens contain only about 37 IU of vitamin D per yolk. However, eggs from hens raised outside or fed vitamin-D-enriched feed contain much higher levels.

6. Mushrooms

Excluding fortified foods, mushrooms are the only good plant source of vitamin D.

Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize this vitamin when exposed to UV light (27).

However, mushrooms produce vitamin D2, whereas animals produce vitamin D3.

Though vitamin D2 helps raise blood levels of vitamin D, it may not be as effective as vitamin D3 (28, 29).

Nonetheless, wild mushrooms are excellent sources of vitamin D2. In fact, some varieties pack up to 2,300 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving — nearly three times the DV (30).

On the other hand, commercially grown mushrooms are often grown in the dark and contain very little D2.

However, certain brands are treated with ultraviolet (UV light). These mushrooms can provide 130–450 IU of vitamin D2 per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) (31).

Summary Mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D2 when exposed to UV light. Only wild mushrooms or mushrooms treated with UV light are good sources of vitamin D.

7. Fortified foods

Natural sources of vitamin D are limited, especially if you’re vegetarian or don’t like fish.

Fortunately, some food products that don’t naturally contain vitamin D are fortified with this nutrient.

Cow’s milk

Cow’s milk, the most commonly consumed type of milk, is naturally a good source of many nutrients, including calcium, phosphorous, and riboflavin (32).

In several countries, cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D. It usually contains about 115–130 IU per cup (237 ml), or about 15–22% of the DV (7, 33).

Soy milk

Because vitamin D is found almost exclusively in animal products, vegetarians and vegans are at a particularly high risk of not getting enough (34).

For this reason, plant-based milk substitutes like soy milk are often fortified with this nutrient and other vitamins and minerals usually found in cow’s milk.

One cup (237 ml) typically contains 107–117 IU of vitamin D, or 13–15% of the DV (35, 36).

Orange juice

Around 75% of people worldwide are lactose intolerant, and another 2–3% have a milk allergy (37, 38).

For this reason, some countries fortify orange juice with vitamin D and other nutrients, such as calcium (39).

One cup (237 ml) of fortified orange juice with breakfast can start your day off with up to 100 IU of vitamin D, or 12% of the DV (40).

Cereal and oatmeal

Certain cereals and instant oatmeal are also fortified with vitamin D.

Half a cup (78 grams) of these foods can provide 54–136 IU, or up to 17% of the DV (41, 42).

Though fortified cereals and oatmeal provide less vitamin D than many natural sources, they can still be a good way to boost your intake.

Summary Foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals, and oatmeal are sometimes fortified with vitamin D. These contain 54–136 IU per serving.

Vitamin D and calcium

Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, which plays a key role in maintaining bone strength and skeletal integrity (43).

Getting enough of both vitamin D and calcium is crucial to maintaining bone health and protecting against disorders like osteoporosis, a condition that is characterized by weak, brittle bones (44).

Children and adults aged 1–70 need approximately 600 IU of vitamin D per day, and it can come from a combination of food sources and sunlight. Meanwhile, adults over 70 should aim for at least 800 IU (20 mcg) of vitamin D per day (45).

The daily value (DV), a rating system used on the labels of packaged food, is 800 IU per day.

Calcium needs also vary by age. Children aged 1–8 require about 2,500 mg of calcium daily, and those ages 9–18 need approximately 3,000 mg daily.

Adults ages 19–50 generally require about 2,500 mg daily, which decreases to 2,000 mg daily for those over age 50 (46).

Summary Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. This makes getting enough of both vitamin D and calcium crucial to maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis.

The bottom line

Spending time in the sun is a good way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. However, sufficient sun exposure is difficult for many people to achieve.

Getting enough from your diet alone may be difficult, but not impossible.

The foods listed in this article are some of the top sources of vitamin D available.

Eating plenty of these vitamin-D-rich foods is a great way to make sure you get enough of this important nutrient.

Vitamin D is an essential component of health. This hailed vitamin is most famously responsible for bone health, but some data suggests this vitamin may also play a role in protecting you from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and even depression.
And vitamin D deficiency is no joke. It can cause osteoporosis, osteomalacia, brittle bones and increase your risk of fractures. A lack of vitamin D can even affect your immune and nervous system.

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Luckily, sunlight (in moderation), supplements and food sources can help get your numbers up to where they should be.

“Many people are able to meet their daily requirement of vitamin D from sun exposure and a balanced diet,” says registered dietitian Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE. “But certain groups of people are more likely to develop a deficiency.”

Those most at risk for vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Older adults.
  • People with limited sun exposure.
  • People who are obese or who have had gastric bypass surgery.
  • Those with dark skin.
  • Infants who are exclusively breastfed without vitamin D supplementation.
  • People with certain digestive diseases that result in malabsorption.

For most children and adults, about 600 international units per day is recommended, however it can range up to 4,000 international units per day depending on health needs. (Most supplements offer about 2,000 international units of vitamin D per pill.)

Vitamin D: Whole foods vs. fortified foods

Fortified foods are meant to help boost vitamin and mineral intake. They’re designed to add nutrients that don’t naturally occur in the product. Sometimes iron, fiber, zinc or vitamin A is added. For instance, most milk is fortified with vitamin D and calcium is sometimes added to orange juice.

“Since so few foods found in nature are good sources of vitamin D, fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D found in the American diet,” explains Taylor.

But she warns that some fortified foods can contain added ingredients that make the product less healthy, like sugar or hydrogenated fats. Cow’s milk and most plant alternative milks are typically fortified with vitamin D, but it’s important to look for products with no added sugar.

Many types of yogurt and cereal are also fortified with vitamin D, but could contain excessive added sugar or saturated fat. Margarine is often fortified as well, but some products contain partially hydrogenated oils, which should be avoided. Read labels to choose the best product for your family.

Vitamin D foods

One of the best ways to get enough vitamin D in your diet is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all of the food groups, including some fortified foods. Also aim for about 15 minutes of mid-day sun exposure at least twice per week.

Foods that provide vitamin D include:
International units per serving.

Foods Rich In Vitamin D & Calcium

Latest News

March 26, 2018

Vitamin D and calcium are essential to many of your body’s vital processes and overall health, although many people don’t realise that the benefits of vitamin D and calcium are interlinked.

Vitamin D contributes to the normal absorption and utilisation of calcium and helps to ensure normal calcium levels in the blood. In fact, almost 99% of your Vitamin D supply is used for regulating the calcium in the body; the remaining part is utilised for strengthening the immune system and maintaining muscle strength.

This is why we offer vitamin D and calcium in one supplement – and why we’ve listed foods which are plentiful in both!

Calcium-rich Foods

Dairy products including cheese, milk and yoghurt are considered to be the most important food group for calcium intake.

Other rich food sources include:

  • Tofu
  • Figs
  • Whole eggs
  • Leafy greens such as spinach and kale
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Fish with soft bones, and
  • Calcium-fortified foods.

(Hard water also makes a significant contribution to calcium intake.)

Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Vitamin D3 is produced naturally in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight, hence its nickname the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’.

However, if you don’t live in northern regions with limited sunlight, aren’t able to spend a lot of time outdoors, or even if you have dark skin, it’s important to be aware of what foods can give you the vitamin D levels your body needs.

Beef liver features quite highly on this list, but if that’s not your favourite then fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel and salmon, are rich in vitamin D.

Milk and cheese are again good sources. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals.

How Much Vitamin D and Calcium Do I Need?

PHE (Public Health England) recommends 700mg of calcium per day for men and women. As for vitamin D, the recommended daily maintenance dosage is 400IU daily (or 10µg) as outlined in the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance. The guidance was developed to ensure that the UK population has a satisfactory level of Vitamin D throughout the year, in order to protect musculoskeletal bone health.

While most individuals should be able to get their recommended intake of vitamin D and calcium without using supplements, there are those of us who, maybe due to dietary restrictions or medical conditions, perhaps don’t get enough of these minerals through the food they eat. If you’re unable to meet your recommended daily intake from food, supplements can be used but ask your doctor for advice.

Example Recipes

Spiced Quinoa with Salmon & Eggs

Tuna, mackerel and salmon are ideal sources of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health, the immune system and muscle function, among other things. Quinoa is the new superfood that everyone is talking about is a must-try this year if you have not already discovered it. To get you started, try this quick recipe to put a little spice into your Spring.

Ingredients

  • 1tsp harissa paste
  • 500ml water
  • 175g quinoa
  • 300g skinless salmon fillets
  • 1 head broccoli, divided into florets
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled & quartered
  • 2 grated carrots
  • 100g baby spinach roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • ½ cucumber, sliced
  • 30g sultanas
  • 5Tbsp chopped fresh mint & some sprigs to garnish

For The Dressing

  • 2Tbsp olive oil
  • Zest and juice of a lemon
  • 1Tbsp honey
  • 4Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Method

  1. Mix the harissa paste and 500ml water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the quinoa, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the salmon in a saucepan by covering with boiling water and simmering for 4-5 minutes before setting aside with the lid on for another 5 minutes to steam. Drain the salmon, then flake into the quinoa.
  3. While the salmon is cooking prepare the broccoli, cooking in boiling water for 4-5 minutes until tender but crisp. Drain and add to the quinoa along with remaining ingredients.
  4. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a jar, tighten the lid and shake well until mixed. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and lightly toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with mint springs. Enjoy!

Learn More

Click on the following links for more information about the benefits of vitamin D and calcium.

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Knowing the best vitamin D foods for vegetarians and how to get enough vitamin D on a plant-based diet is important for bone health, a healthy immune system, and may help to protect against some cancers. If you live in northern latitudes, we can’t rely solely on vitamin D from the sun. This post will help breakdown the importance of vitamin D, which foods contain vitamin D and how we can supplement.

Northern winters can result in a lack of vitamin D.

By now, most of us have heard of the importance of Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of calcium (see post Getting Enough Calcium On A Dairy-Free Diet), and has the ability to decrease inflammation in the body (1). Vitamin D comes primarily from the sun, but in northern latitudes (37 degrees north) during the winter months, we just can’t get enough (2).

While there are some food sources of vitamin D, in the winter we actually can’t get enough vitamin D from food alone. The best food source of Vitamin D is oily fish, and while vitamin D foods for vegetarians can be limited there are some steps we can take to ensure we are getting enough.

What Is Vitamin D For?

One of the most well-recognized roles of vitamin D is its role in bone health and its ability to increase the absorption of calcium in our bodies. Vegetarian and vegan sources of calcium can be plentiful in a well-balanced diet containing a wide variety of foods – see my post 10 Surprisingly Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium. Vitamin D also has the ability to modulate the immune system and oppose inflammation in the body (1).

10 Surprising Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

Vitamin D Deficiency

It is near impossible for most people to get enough vitamin D from food, not just vegans and vegetarians. While we can usually rely on sunshine for vitamin D, in northern latitudes from October to April the lack of sun exposure means our bodies are not able to convert the UVB from the sun to vitamin D3.

Vitamin D Deficiency in Children

Severe vitamin D deficiency leads to rickets, a disease in children resulting in skeletal deformities due to the failure of bone tissue to properly mineralize (3).

Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults

In adults, vitamin D deficiency results in the inability to absorb calcium from food, and subsequent ‘stealing of calcium from bones’. This causes osteomalacia (softening of the bones caused by impaired bone metabolism), as well as an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Who Is At Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency

The risk of deficiency is not limited to those living in northern latitudes or to those following a plant-based diet. Other populations at risk include:

  • Pregnant Ladies – During pregnancy vitamin D Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is increased
  • Those living in polluted areas – Pollution, as well as cloud coverage, impact the amount of vitamin D available
  • Those with darker skin and ethnic minorities – African Americans have, on average, about half as much vitamin D in their blood as white Americas (2). Melanin, the pigment in darker skin, reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure
  • The elderly population – The skin’s ability to produce vitamin D is influenced by age, and after the age of 65 the skin only generates one-fourth as much vitamin D compared to people in their 20s (2)
  • Those with Crohn’s or Celiac Disease – These conditions affect the ability of the body to absorb dietary fat in the gut, which impacts the absorption of fat-soluble vitamin D

Except during the summer months, the skin makes little if any vitamin D from the sun at latitudes above 37 degrees north (in the United States, the shaded region in the map) or below 37 degrees south of the equator. People who live in these areas are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency (2).

Vitamin D and Autoimmune Disorders

Vitamin D Receptors (VDR) are located in tissue all throughout the body, and in all the major organs. Vitamin D is active interacts with over 3,000 genes, including some associated with cancers, autoimmune disease, and infection!

A study published in 2001 and followed 12, 055 participates for 30 years found that when children were supplemented with vitamin D for the first year and a half of life they had a significantly lower risk of developing autoimmune type 1 diabetes (4).

Another study, published in 2004, found that a higher intake of vitamin D was associated with a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune condition (5).

Vitamin D and Cancer

In terms of the gold-standard of research, a randomized-controlled trial (RTC) tested the effect of vitamin D supplements on cancer. Women who took a higher dose of vitamin D (1,100 IU) combined with calcium, reduced their risk of developing non-skin cancers by 77% (6).

The only other RTC on Vitamin D and cancer found no effect on vitamin D intake and colorectal cancer – though, this study only supplemented with 400IU of vitamin D (7).

Vitamin D deficiency is more common above 37° latitude

How Much Vitamin D Do We Need

The Institute for Medicine has set the RDA for vitamin D at 600 IU per day for those aged 9 to 70 (over the age of 70 the RDA is 800 IU per day), however, this amount is widely thought to be inefficient.

Author and Registered Dietitian Desiree Neilson recommends 1000 IU of vitamin D3 in the summer and 2000 IU of vitamin D3 in the winter. This is a modest but still active dose that is safe for lifelong use and within the upper limits set by the Institute of Medicine (8).

Northern BC

Getting Vitamin D Levels Tested

How To Know If You Are Getting Enough

The best way of knowing if you are getting enough vitamin D is to request a simple lab test at your next doctors’ visit. The test that can reliably assess your vitamin D levels is called a 25(OH)D test (not the 1,25(OH)₂D test which provides no information about vitamin D status).

This lab test comes with a small fee but is especially helpful for those at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency (pregnancy, vegetarians/vegans, darker skin, ethnic minority, elderly, those living in northern latitudes).

Interpreting Vitamin D Lab Values

In Canada, vitamin D levels are measured in nmol/L (in the USA they are measured in ng/ml).

The goal should be to maintain both children and adults at a level of more than 75nmol/L (30 ng/ml) to take full advantage of all the health benefits that vitamin D provides. This value meets the needs of 97.5% of the population.

Northern BC lacks sunlight for much of the year

Best Vitamin D Source

It is estimated that 90% of our vitamin D comes naturally through sun exposure. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back, without sunscreen is usually enough to get adequate vitamin D during certain months.

Food Sources of Vitamin D

Oily fish such as salmon is our main food source of vitamin D, but we can’t rely on it as our only source – it is just not sustainable (see post Is There Something Fishy About Fish Farms?)! A 6 oz serving of salmon provides 900IU of vitamin D. Eggs contain some vitamin D, as well as fortified dairy and non-dairy milk alternatives.

Vitamin D Amounts In Food

Vitamin D Foods For Vegetarians:

  • Fortified Milk Alternatives – 1 cup – 0 – 100IU

Other Vitamin D Foods:

  • Salmon – fresh, wild, 3.5 oz – 400 – 600 IU
  • Salmon – farmed, 3.5 oz – 100 – 250 IU
  • Milk, fortified – 1 cup – 100 IU
  • Yogurt, fortified – 6oz – 80 IU
  • Egg, 1 large – 40 IU
  • Cheese, 1 oz – 6 IU

Vitamin D in Vegetables

Many vegan resources cite mushrooms as a good source of vitamin D2, with 1 cup of portobello mushrooms said to contain up to 600 IU.

While it is well recognized that exposing mushrooms to UV light can cause measurable increases in the vitamin D2 content, the amount of vitamin D2 will vary greatly depending on the type of light and duration of exposure, and can, therefore, be unreliable. For these reasons, we do not include mushrooms as a reliable vitamin D food for vegetarians and vegans.

Chanterelle Barley Risotto

Vitamin D2 Vs Vitamin D3 Supplements

Are Vitamin D Supplements Vegetarian?

There are two types of vitamin D supplements: vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D2 is manufactured by the UV irradiation of yeast, and vitamin D3 is (mostly) manufactured by the irradiation of 7-dehydrocholesterol from lanolin (9), a natural, animal-derived product harvested from shorn sheep’s wool.

Vegan Vitamin D2

Vitamin D3 is more effective at raising and maintaining vitamin D levels in the body and is chemically identical to the form of vitamin D that our body produces from sun exposure (10,11). D2 is thought to be only about 60% as effective as vitamin D3 at raising serum vitamin D levels, therefore vegans who choose to supplement with D2 may need to increase intake accordingly (8).

When To Take Vitamin D Supplement

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is, therefore, best taken with a meal or snack that contains some fat. Really, the best time to take any supplement is when you are going to remember it. If morning is your most routine, take your vitamin D supplement with your High Protein Steel-Cut Oats with Peanut Butter this Berry Cauliflower and Greens Smoothie Bowl.

Best Vegan Vitamin D Supplement

Most vitamin D3 supplements can be derived from an animal source such as sheep’s wool (lanolin), though if you are a vegetarian/vegan who is OK with wearing wool, this would be an acceptable choice.

Lichen is a vegan-friendly source of vitamin D2, though as it is less effective additional supplementation may be needed. A vegan vitamin D3 sourced from a type of wild-harvested lichen which has the ability to produce vitamin D in the natural D3 form is newly available from Whole Earth and Sea, and Nordic Naturals.

Tips For Vitamin D In Vegans and Vegetarians

  • Get 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 am and 3 pm twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back, without sunscreen in the summer months
  • Use vitamin D fortified milk alternatives
  • For higher-risk individuals, request a vitamin D screen and know your targets
  • For those living in northern latitudes, supplement with vitamin D from October to April

What Some More Help Vitamin D Foods For Vegetarians and Vegans?

Check out my complete one-week vegan meal plan that includes all the necessary information for maximizing a plant-based diet over 70 pages and 30 vegan recipes.

References for Vitamin D Foods For Vegetarians

1) Guillot, Xavier, et al. Vitamin D and inflammation. Joint Bone Spine 77.6 (2010): 552-557
2) Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard School of Public Health. Time For More Vitamin D.
3) Wharton B, Bishop N. Rickets. Lancet 2003;362:1389-400.
4) Hyppönen E, Läärä E, Reunanen A, Järvelin MR. Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. Lancet. 2001 Nov 3;358(9292):1500-3.
5) Merlino LA, et al. Vitamin D intake is inversely associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Iowa Women’s Health Study. Arthritis Rheum. 2004 Jan;50(1):72-7.
6) Joan M Lappe, et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007. Volume 85, Issue 6, 1, 1586–1591.
7) R. T. Chlebowski, et al. The Women’s Health Initiative randomized trial of calcium plus vitamin D: Effects on breast cancer and arthralgias. Journal of Clinical Oncology. R. T. 2006.
8) Health Canada. Updated Recommendations for calcium and Vitamin D.
9) Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357:266-81
10) Heany, Robert P., et al. Vitamin D3 is more potent than vitamin D2 in humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2011. 93: E447-E452
11) Tripkovic L, et al. Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012. 95(6):1357-64.

Photo Credit: Shayne Stadnick Photography

Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.

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