While vitamin D is a “micro” nutrient, it has huge implications for the health of your bones, brain, and much more. But if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough of it.
Vitamin D deficiency is so rampant that some health officials are debating whether to fortify food and drinks with the nutrient to curb the rise of health problems.
Getting enough vitamin D can be challenging for any busy adult. But since the main source of vitamin D is animal products, it’s especially tricky if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. The good news is you can get plenty of vegan vitamin D without pills or powders.
Before we discuss how to increase your vegan vitamin D intake, let’s cover why you should never ignore this nutrient.
4 Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a nutrient as well as a hormone that humans make naturally. Its main job is helping your body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus—two minerals that are essential for maintaining healthy bones and preventing conditions like osteoporosis. The benefits of vitamin D go beyond bone health, though.
1. It Boosts Your Immune System
Research shows that low levels of vitamin D have been associated with respiratory infections and autoimmune diseases.
2. It Can Improve Your Mood
People with low vitamin D blood levels tend to be at greater risk of experiencing depression compared to a control group, according to a review by the British Journal of Psychiatry.
3. It Fights Off Diseases
Researchers have found a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular diseases including hypertension and heart failure. There’s even evidence suggesting that maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D can reduce the risk of cancer.
4. It Gives You Energy
Vitamin D boosts your energy levels by improving the efficiency of the mitochondria in your cells. This study from Newcastle University found that people recovered faster from workouts when they took a vitamin D supplement for 10 weeks.
Now that you know the benefits, let's break down how to get vitamin D as a vegan.
4 Ways to Get Vegan Vitamin D
Here are four of the best sources of vegan vitamin D.
Your body converts ultraviolet light from the sun into vitamin D, hence its nickname the “sunshine vitamin.” Impressive as that is, most people don’t get sufficient vitamin D from sunlight alone—even if they live in a super sunny climate.
That’s because you need direct exposure to UV light; your skin can’t make vitamin D if the sunlight is filtered through a window. In other words, more time indoors means less vitamin D.
Although vitamin D rarely comes from plant sources (lichen is the exception), it can be added to vegan foods. This is what it means for a food to be “fortified.”
There are all sorts of vitamin-D fortified foods, including plant-based milk, cereals, orange juice, and tofu. Keep in mind that these foods may only deliver a small percentage of your daily recommended dose of vitamin D, so pay close attention to those nutrition facts.
Vegan Vitamin D Supplements
Supplements (like a multivitamin) are a common, convenient way to get more vegan-friendly vitamin D. However, there are some potential problems:
- Some supplements contain vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) which may not be absorbed as efficiently as vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
- Many vitamin D3 supplements are made from animal products. Never assume a supplement is vegan by default.
- Vitamin capsules often contain unnecessary and potentially harmful additives.
- Pills can be difficult to swallow—up to 40% of American adults struggle to swallow pills.
- Taking pills every day can irritate your esophagus, leading to heartburn and chest pain.
- Taking supplements requires you to adopt a new daily routine (an unpleasant one, at that).
- Traditional oral supplements may not work as fast as sublingual supplements
Vitamin D gummies are becoming a popular substitute for pills and capsules. This might seem appealing, but gummy vitamins are often loaded with sugar, sugar alcohols, artificial colors, and other fillers that give them a gummy texture.
Brushing Your Teeth
You read that right: brushing your teeth is a big opportunity to get more vitamin D. That’s because the capillaries in your mouth are extremely absorbent (more so than your digestive system) and soak up nutrients straight into your bloodstream for rapid intake.
All you need is a vegan toothpaste that can deliver the goods.
Better & Better’s Energy Toothpaste is packed with 80% of your daily amount of vegan vitamin D3—assuming you brush twice daily—so you don’t have to add extra supplements and foods into your daily routine.
(Learn more about the benefits of brushing with sublingual vitamins here).
So, how do you know if you’re getting enough vitamin D as a vegan?
How Much Vitamin D Do Vegans Need?
Since dietary vitamin D comes primarily from animal sources, vegans may be at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how many micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D you need every day, according to the National Institutes of Health:
- Adults 19-70: 15 mcg
- Adults 71 and up: 20 mcg
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 15 mcg
Common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, muscle aches, bone pain, and mood swings, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, if you want to know for sure whether your vitamin D levels are low, you can have your doctor or dietitian run a blood test.
Don’t Leave Your Vitamin D Levels Up to Chance
More than 140 million adults (42%) in the United States are vitamin D deficient, according to Nutrition Research. But as you can see, meeting your daily quota can be tricky, especially if you follow a plant-based diet.
Rather than tracking your meals or taking vitamin capsules, why not get a dose of vitamin D3 (and vitamin B12) every time you brush your teeth? On top of brightening your smile, our Energy Toothpaste delivers nutrients to support your bones, brain, and whole body.
Sometimes, you don’t have to build new habits—you can just make your current ones better.