Vitamin D Sources for Vegans
Vitamin D deficiency is often a concern amongst vegetarians and vegans. It is also a fairly common deficiency amongst the overall population, with a study from 2012 indicating that up to 58% of Australians are deficient in this vitamin. The recommended daily allowance for an average adult is around 600-800IU.
Vitamin D is also known as “the sunshine vitamin” because it is naturally produced by the human body in response to the skin being exposed to sunlight. Given that the average lifestyle is becoming more sedentary and largely indoors, the average person is having less exposure to direct sunlight, which could be a large contributor to this issue.
This, along with the important use of high SPF sunscreens in our Australian climate also means that the vitamin D inducing rays don’t get the adequate access to our skin cells. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include: feeling low or depressed, aching bones and potentially even gut troubles.
Those most at risk are considered to be: vegetarians and vegans (who don’t consume the vitamin D rich foods such as eggs, milk, grass-fed meats or certain fish), those with limited sun exposure or with darker skin, those with poor kidney function who are unable to convert vitamin D to its active form or those who are obese and whose higher quantity of fat cells reduce the vitamin D release and circulation into the blood.
If you’re following a vegan or raw vegan lifestyle, don’t despair! There are most definitely ways to boost your vitamin D levels:
- Opt for appropriate “fortified” products. There are numerous products that now come with added vitamin D, including milk alternatives like soy milk, almond milk, orange juice and soy yoghurt.
- Include Maitake mushrooms in the diet. Just one diced cup of these vitamin D rich mushrooms can satisfy an average adult’s vitamin D RDA (boasting approximately 780IU per serve).
- Increasing direct sun exposure in a sensible and tightly moderated way - perhaps twice a week for a few minutes at a time.
- Consider a vegan-friendly supplement in consultation with your family doctor and pharmacist.
Vitamin D is incredibly important for the body as it’s essential for calcium absorption and for strong bones- preventing a host of bone issues including osteoporosis. Research is also showing that adequate levels of vitamin D stave off a host of other health issues including : heart disease, autoimmune diseases, infections, cancer, cognitive impairment in older adults as well as asthma in children.
* A simple blood test will let your doctor know what your vitamin D levels are and if they are below what is considered adequate. It’s advised to always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional if this is something of concern.
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