Lifestyle

Vitamin D Vegan Sources and UK RDA Advice Changed

Strong sun on a hot summer day

Public health England suggest that everyone in the UK should think about vitamin D supplements in the Autumn and Winter

This is the outcome of a new report from the government into vitamin D levels. They also have upped the recommended daily allowance to 10 micrograms. The report also found that 20% of adults and 17% of children in the UK have low levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D can be found in some foods, but the vast majority is made by the body after exposure to sunlight. There has been a rise of rickets in children and this is put down to increased sun cream usage. Sunlight is good for you, but only in small amounts.

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) reviewed the evidence and gave the advice for everyone over 1 to have 10 micrograms a day in order to protect against cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and autoimmune disorders. This is difficult to achieve through the sun and diet alone in the winter months so they suggest everyone considers supplementation.

Advice has also changed for children 4 and under. They are now advised to have a supplement every day throughout the year. Infants under 1 may not require additional supplementation if they are consuming formula that has added vitamin D.

Top Vegan Sources of Vitamin D

You don’t need to consume meat and dairy to obtain vitamin D as there are many plant sources. Vitamin D deficiency is not more prevalent in vegans.

Sunlight

Sunlight is the best way to up your vitamin D as the body can convert sunlight into this vitamin. However it is often not recommended as officials are concerned about the skin cancer risk. It’s important to get sunlight but not to burn. For most people 20 minutes of exposing as much flesh as possible should give enough. However this varies on where you live (higher latitudes means less intense sunlight), the colour of your skin (darker skin can absorb less) and your age (the amount converted decreases as you get older).

mushrooms for vegan vitamin D

Mushrooms left out in the sun can make vitamin D

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are just like humans in that they can convert sunlight to vitamin D. Most mushrooms are grown in the dark so in order to obtain a decent amount of vitamin D they need to be sliced, placed flat and exposed to strong sun for several hours. You can buy brands that have been exposed to sunlight to obtain vitamin D.

Supplements

Vitamin D supplements are cheap and readily available. It is possible to overdose on vitamin D so you should speak to your doctor for advice on the amount needed if your concerned that your levels are low.

Milk

Most plant based milks have been fortified with vitamin D. Many brands in the UK contain half your recommended daily amount in one 330 ml serving. Remember to check the packaging as animal derived products are sometimes used for vitamin D.

Fortified orange juice

Several brands these days are fortified with vitamin D and calcium. However I would recommend tablets over these as they are often highly processed and contain flavourings and preservatives.

Fortified Cereals

Many cereals have added vitamin D. They often contain half of your RDA in one serving so you can  potentially get your whole daily allowance by eating with a fortified milk. Again check the packet that they are vegan as not all are.

Ultra violet lamps

These are similar to tanning booths but are the size of an A4 sheet of paper. They do carry the same risks of skin cancer so are only recommended for people with medical conditions.

About the author

Eloise

I'm a former GP that left medicine to become a nutritionist and yoga teacher. I enjoy helping clients change their life through diet and exercise. I'm interested in the prevention of illness using natural methods.

2 Comments

  • Not all vitamin D in fortified cereals/plant milks etc. is vegan as it can be derived from lanolin (from sheep’s wool) – so be sure to double check the label or contact the manufacturer!

    • Thanks Caroline that’s a very important point that I missed out. I will add that in :). It’s annoying how many cereals aren’t vegan because for some odd reason milk is added – why?!

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