Natural Vitamin D for Vegans
According to the Department of Health and Social Care
“Around 1 in 6 adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D, which can lead to rickets, bone pain and disabilities”.
But that is not the whole story!
Apparently, vitamin D has an important role for our immune system and even in the prevention and reduction of cancer mortality. Indeed, according to a recent study which reviewed 27 academic medical articles on the association between vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19, severe COVID-19 patients presented more vitamin D deficiency compared with mild cases. Also, in another study conducted in 2019, which analysed data gathered on 6537 patients vitamin D supplementation was shown to significantly reduce total cancer mortality.
Given the importance of vitamin D, it is not surprising that The International Osteoporosis Foundation has developed and launched an interactive map that details global vitamin D deficiency levels. The aim is to make health professionals and governments aware of the deficiency of vitamin D in their own countries and urge them to take appropriate actions to correct it. Accordingly, “this will help improve and even saves lives” claims Judy Stenmark, CEO of the International Osteoporosis Foundation.
Now if you look at the map, you will see that The Swedish come out on top when it comes to vitamin D levels. Despite having very disparate levels of sunshine throughout the year it seems they perform better than most other countries in Europe. Even better than those Mediterranean sunny countries like Spain, Italy or Greece. But, how is that possible?
Well, it looks like the secret is their diet! Indeed, vitamin D is found in oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel which represent a major part of the typical Swedish diet. Even canned tuna seems to provide a good amount of vitamin D (See table below). So, it is possible to get enough vitamin D just from food? Even in those countries with low levels of sunlight? And what about those people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet? Can they take a sufficient amount of Vitamin D just from food?
According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, we generally need between 600 and 800 IU of vitamin D daily. Now, although the body produces vitamin D when a person’s skin is exposed to direct sunlight not everyone can spend hours outside. Moreover, there is no definitive rule of thumb for how long someone should be exposed to direct sunlight to get a decent amount of vitamin D. Indeed, many factors affect how much vitamin D a person gets from the sun, such as time of the day, season, skin tone, amount of skin exposed, geographical area, etc. Hence, the alternative is food.
If you follow a vegan diet, it is possible to find vitamin D, especially in mushrooms. However, not all varieties “are fit” for the purpose. If you look at the table below that we developed according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) some varieties are better suited for the task. We categorised some of the most common varieties so that you can shop smarter and select the most vitamin D-rich mushroom at the grocery store.