Vegetarian diet and all its variations (f.e. vegan) provides you with plenty of health benefits, if done correctly. When on this diet, you need to pay extra attention to the following vitamins, minerals and microelements to avoid their deficiency: calcium, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and sufficient amount of protein.

This post is about vitamin D

The role of vitamin D in the body

Vitamin D helps your body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, that are critical for building bones. Vitamin D also participates in cell growth and function, controls infections, and reduces inflammation.

Who is at most risk of vitamin D deficiency while on a plant-based diet?

We know that vitamin D is mainly produced from sunlight exposure. However, this way is not reliable for everyone: think about the elderly, dark-skinned people, heavy sunscreen users and those, who live in high latitudes, especially during the winter months.

According to one large British study, vegans are at most risk of vitamin D deficiency, IF they live in high latitudes and don’t use vitamin D-fortified foods or supplements. They turned to have low levels of vitamin D and reduced bone mass. Vegeterians could also be at risk. The study showed that the blood levels of vitamin D in in vegans were 27.5% lower, and vegetarians 14.3% lower than in meat eaters.

That is why regular food and supplement sources are necessary on a plant-based diet to need body’s requirments for vitamin D.

What are the food sources of vitamin D?

Fortified plant-based foods, such as fortified plant-based beverages, fortified orange juice, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are a good source of vitamin D for vegans. Modest amounts of vitamin D can be also found mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light under controlled conditions.

Vegetarians can add to this list fortified margarines and lacto-ovo-vegetarians – fortified dairy products and eggs.

How to maximize the absorption of vitamin D from your food?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It means that it mixes better in fat than in water. That’s is why you’ll find it in the fatty portions of your foods, such as the yolk of an egg or the butterfat of milk. Even in a food that is low in fat, such as a mushroom, if you squeezed oil out of it, the vitamin D would come out in the oil.

This also means that you’ll absorb more of vitamin D if you eat it with fat. It’s best to consume vitamin D-rich foods or vitamin D supplements at your biggest meal if your meals don’t vary much in their fat content, or at your highest-fat meal if they do.

What are the recommended dose of vitamin D supplementation?

Foods have limited amounts of vitamin D. Depending on sunlight exposure and dietary intake, you may need to supplement.

Depending upon age, geographical location, dietary preferences, and body weight, a daily supplemental dose of 10–50 µg (400 to 2000 IU) of vitamin D may be required to achieve optimal serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) year-round.

For low daily doses, vitamin D2 appears to be as effective as vitamin D3 in maintaining good levels of 25(OH) D. When given as a single large dose, vitamin D2 appears to be less effective than vitamin D3 for improving the vitamin D status.

As you can see, a plant-based diet can provide you with an adequate vitamin D intake through appropriate foods and supplements, supporting your bone health and immune system! Just be aware of that and make good choices.

Curious? HERE is the source

Tatsiana Haponava, PhD

a certified nutrition coach, educator and researcher with a PhD degree

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