Vitamin D is a vitamin that is also considered a hormone due to its function in the body. While most essential nutrients and vitamins we can get through our diet (food and drinks), vitamin D has also an interesting feature since it can be produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
In these modern times when we are closed in workplaces and people are inside through the day, and for other reasons, most people need to rely on consuming enough vitamin D from food or drinks. We can not just rely on the sun on for vitamin D.
What Does Vitamin D Do To Our Body?
The main function of vitamin D is related to bone health. Vitamin D is needed to balance the calcium in our bodies, it also helps the intestines absorb more calcium and helps the body retain it.
For decades, this was the only known function of vitamin D. However, in recent years, vitamin D has been shown to play other roles in the body, and in disease processes. Vitamin D has a protagonistic role in gene transcription allowing cells to mitosis and to divide healthily, and cells grow.
The lack of Vitamin D has been also associated with some types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, psoriasis, and likely plays a role in helping the immune system fight infections all these infections.
Recommended Daily Intake for Vitamin D
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for vegans is the same as that of the general population. Vitamin D recommendations vary by country and the recommended dietary allowance is 600 IU per day.
Vitamin D Deficiency
The most obvious outcomes of vitamin D deficiency are rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Both of these are disorders of softening bones which relates to the primary role of vitamin D in calcium balance.
Severe deficiency can have impacts on the neuromuscular system with symptoms including muscle weakness, limb pain, and impaired physical function. Low vitamin D can also provoke risk for type 1 diabetes, insulin resistance, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and psoriasis.
How Much Is Enough Vitamin D as a Vegan?
We do not have many natural sources of vitamin D in the food supply, because humans evolved to make vitamin D from exposure to the sun. The US and Canada require fortification of vitamin D into liquid cow’s milk, powdered cow’s milk, evaporated milk products, and margarine. Cow’s milk does not contain a lot of naturally occurring vitamin D, so when you hear that milk is a good source of vitamin D, note that it was added in.
Other food products can be fortified with vitamin D, such as yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, etc. Many vegan milk alternatives are fortified with vitamin D. Choosing fortified options can be a way to increase intake of essential nutrients.
Improving Absorption of Vitamin D
While ensuring adequate intake of vitamins is essential, it’s s important to allow the body to absorb those vitamins. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it will be absorbed into the body the same way dietary fats are. Vitamin D supplements are best absorbed when taken with a large meal that includes fat intake such as coconut oil, nuts, and other plant-based fats.
Vegan Food Sources of Vitamin D
Apart from fortified plant-based milk alternatives, margarine is required to be fortified with vitamin D. Therefore, if you consume margarine regularly along with fortified plant-based milk, you may be able to meet your vitamin D needs.
Summary: Vitamin D for Vegans
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for a healthy life. A majority of people have difficulty getting adequate vitamin D from the sun. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D.
Margarine is fortified with vitamin D and many plant-based kinds of milk are fortified. If you do not consume these foods, a vitamin D supplement is likely necessary to meet your intake needs. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before starting any new supplements.