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A lot of vegans have insufficient vitamin D levels according to several studies conducted in recent years.
This is in part due to the modern lifestyle where people are working long hours in the office and other people live in northern latitudes where they can only get vitamin D at certain times of the year.
For these reasons, it’s important that vegans take a daily vitamin D supplement to keep their levels optimal.
Why should vegans take vitamin D3?
Vitamin D research has exploded over the last decade.
It used to be thought of as just important for healthy bones, but now we know that maintaining optimal vitamin D levels is super important for many reasons.
Vitamin D is a key regulator for hundreds of genes which influences everything from bone metabolism, immune system function, cellular stress response, gene transcription regulation, DNA repair, and even our longevity. It’s thought that vitamin D could help regulate up to 5% of the human genome!
The bad news: vegans have been reported in studies to have the lowest intake of vitamin D, lowest blood levels measured by 25(OH)D3 test, and have worse bone density than non-vegans.
The good news: Although there are many foods which are fortified with vitamin D2 like milk substitutes, the only source of vitamin D3 was thought to be from sheep’s wools, at least until recently. Now us vegans are also able to take the best form of vitamin D from lichens.
What is the RDA of vitamin D?
- Adult Males – 600 IU
- Adult Females – 600 IU
- Adults above 70 – 800 IU
40 IU of vitamin D equals 1 microgram (mcg)
In recent years, studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals suggesting that the recommended daily allowance should be increased in order to maintain optimal levels.
In one study, 2000 IU was sufficient to raise vitamin D levels in African American women. If you have a fair skin tone, you could probably do fine with at least 1000 IU (assuming you also get some sun exposure) .
Top Vitamin D3 Supplement picks for vegans
Most vitamin D supplements on the market are not vegan, but the ones listed below are all natural and sourced from lichens.
What are lichens?
Lichens are basically a plant species that consists of fungus and algae. They are able to survive in very extreme climates and provides a wide variety of nutrients to sustain its growth, including Vitamin D3.
#1. Garden of Life Vitamin D3 for Vegans (organic and tasty!) – 2000 IU
This supplement is packed full of nutrients from different plant sources, with a healthy dose of vitamin D3 from lichen (2000 IU).
And the raspberry-lemon chewable is also a really tasty way to get your D3! Trust me.
Garden of Life Vitamin D3 has also been certified USDA organic and NON-GMO.
This is probably the best vitamin D3 supplement I’ve found. I love it because the supplement contains only natural ingredients from organic foods.
Main Ingredient – lichen (vitamin D3)
Other ingredients – Organic food blend which contains flax seed, organic carrot, organic broccoli, organic cauliflower, and organic spinach.
Also contains a wide range of mushrooms to help boost immune system health!
Who should take this supplement?
With a dose of 2000 IU, this vitamin D supplement would be suitable for both light and dark skin vegans in either the winter or summer.
Also a good option for people who are in the office and are indoor most of the day or people on the night shift.
#2. Doctor Formulated Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement – 1000 IU
It contains 1000 IU of cholecalciferol, it’s 100% vegan, and it’s a non-genetically modified lichen source of vitamin D3.
The supplement is also gluten and soy free, and each bottle contains 60 small vegetarian/vegan capsules.
Although it’s a smaller amount of vitamin D than the previous supplement, it’s just enough to prevent vitamin D deficiency and good for people who are concerned with taking too much of this fat-soluble vitamin.
The company also states that their product is manufactured in the USA in a regulated facility, which is subject to good manufacturing practices (GMP) for which it has been certified.
Who should take this supplement?
If you work outdoors, get a lot of sunshine, and you have light skin, this vitamin D supplement would be a great option for you.
If you have darker skin and require more sun to increase vitamin D levels, a dose of about 2000 IU would be more sufficient.
#3. Doctor’s Best Vitamin D3 Vegan Supplement – 2500 IU
A dose of 2500 IU of vitamin D3 sourced from lichen is good for people who have been found to be low in vitamin D and are trying to quickly increase their blood levels of 25(OH)D3.
Some of the key features of this product: it has proven potency, clinically researched, 3rd party tested and has been GMP certified.
The vitamin D3 supplement is also harvested and registered with the UK vegan society.
Aside from the main ingredient (lichen), it contains a small amount of maltodextrin, starch, sucrose, silicon dioxide, d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) and ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin C).
Who should take this supplement?
This supplement should be suitable for most people and provide adequate vitamin D levels to prevent deficiency and may even lower the risk of certain diseases according to recent studies looking at optimal vitamin D levels in humans.
If you easily tan and have an olive or a darker skin tone, this vitamin D supplement would be best for you. However, if it’s summer and you’re getting lots of sunshine, go for a lower dose of 1000 IU or take every other day.
#4. Country Life Vegan Vitamin D3 – 5000 IU
The product contains 5000 IU of Vitamin D3 from Vitashine (plant derived D3).
Other ingredients include sunflower oil, d alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), non-GMO corn starch, carrageenan, vegetable glycerin, sorbitol, and purified water.
It’s free from yeast, wheat, soy, salt, sugar, preservatives, and artificial colorings.
This product like the previous vitamin D supplements also has environmentally friendly attributes and certifications.
Who should take this supplement?
I recommend this supplement for winter use only and for people with dark skin tones (which makes it harder to produce vitamin D in the skin). Also, a great choice to use in the winter when there isn’t much sunlight or chance to produce vitamin D in the skin.
Important note: If you choose this product, I would recommend getting blood tests done if you’re going to take it long-term.
Main benefits of Vitamin D3
There are numerous benefits of taking vitamin D3. Some of these benefits occur at doses above the minimum daily requirement.
- Autoimmune disease.
- Heart disease.
- Viral and bacterial infections.
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Depression and anxiety.
The list of conditions which is affected by vitamin D and it’s growing every year as researchers uncover results from long-term trials using vitamin D in disease prevention and disease treatment.
Although it’s important to remember that vitamin D by itself is not a magic bullet, it’s something that everyone ought to pay more attention if one wants to achieve optimal health and well-being.
Also, having a supplemental source of vitamin D means that we can spend less time in the sun trying to achieve optimal vitamin D levels and supplement instead. This will help keep our skin looking younger in the long run and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
- Catching colds and other bugs more frequently.
- Hair loss (not male pattern baldness).
- Seasonal affective disorder.
- General aches and pains/muscle pain.
- Fatigue and tiredness.
- Bone pain.
- Muscle pain.
Who is at more risk of deficiency?
- If you live in the northern hemisphere, you’re more likely to develop a deficiency, especially in the wintertime.
- People who work indoors all day and don’t get much sun are at risk.
- If you frequently wear sunscreen that is SPF 30 or above, as this can block your ability to synthesize vitamin D by over 95%.
- Having darker skin will also mean you require longer time spent in the sun to synthesize vitamin D.
Frequently asked questions about vitamin D3 supplements
Below are some of the questions that people ask with regards to taking vitamin D supplements.
1. Can’t I just eat foods that are fortified with vitamin D2 instead of taking a supplement?
Good question! Although there are many vegan foods that have now been fortified with vitamin D2, the enough that you can obtain from these foods will not sufficiently raise for vitamin D blood levels to a sufficient level. Recent research suggests that 2000 IU at least is what you need to be taking daily or getting from sun exposure.
If you’re already taking a multivitamin, make sure that you check if it contains a large amount of vitamin D before using vitamin D supplements. If your multivitamin contains just 1000 IU, choose a 1000 IU vitamin D3 supplement.
2. How can I tell if I am taking too much vitamin D?
While most people will be fine taking the recommended amount of vitamin D, it’s always best to consult with your doctor to measure your vitamin D levels after a few months of taking one of these supplements. This will give you a good idea of how much you should continue to take over the long term.
Unless there are very high and toxic levels of vitamin D present in the blood (which is hard to achieve in a short period of time), there might be any immediate symptoms.
There have been reports where some people have accidentally taken too much vitamin D and they have experienced symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, weakness, frequent urination, and bone pain.
3. Why should I take vitamin D3 instead of vitamin D2?
There are two forms of vitamin D: ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol. However, cholecalciferol (D3) form is far more potent and it’s is the natural form. Vitamin D2 is often used by doctor’s to treat vitamin D deficiency and it’s a synthetic form.
Studies have shown that people who take vitamin D3 are able to maintain their 25(OH)D3 levels much better than when they are taking the D2 form.
4. Do I have to take the vitamin D supplement every day?
As vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, you may take it when it’s most convenient for you. This could mean that instead of taking 1000 IU per day, you can take 7000 IU once per week.
5. Should I be taking vitamin D in the summer if I spend a lot of time outside?
In the summer, a person with light skin can spend around 20 minutes in the sun around midday and generate around 10,000 – 15,000 of vitamin D. A person with a darker skin tone will take longer to generate the same amount. In fact, many African Americans are low in vitamin D, even if they live in sunny areas.
Article reviewed and updated: March 2019.