Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for people of all ages. This vitamin helps your body to maintain strong bone health, improve your immune system and decrease your chances of developing type 1 diabetes and other ailments.
But despite the important internal roles it plays, nearly 42% of Americans lack adequate vitamin D. While this sunshine vitamin can be received through exposure to UV rays, many factors— including modern indoor lifestyles, sunblock and climates that require skin to be covered up most of the year, etc.— require us to incorporate this vitamin into our diet.
Whether you stick to a strict vegan diet or are someone who’s just starting to experiment with eating plant-based foods, it’s nice to know there are nutritious alternatives to meat-based meals.
But before we explore popular vegan food sources of vitamin D, let’s briefly differentiate between the two types of vitamin D:
The Vegan Form of Vitamin D
When it comes to vitamin D, there are several possible formats, but the two most common kinds are referred to as D2 and D3.
Simply put, vegans do not typically consume vitamin D3, which is received through eating meat or animal by-products. Instead, vegan eaters strictly receive D2 from fungus-based sources— including yeast or mushrooms— or dietary supplements.
But do you need both forms of the vitamin? Recent studies have shown that you don’t, and that those with dietary restrictions can get all the vitamin D they need by receiving D2, exclusively.
“It used to be thought that D2 was less potent and bioavailable in the body than D3,” according to Berkeley Wellness. However, a number of reputable studies ”comparing D2 from mushrooms with D3 from supplements… found that D2 is as effective as D3 in boosting the biologically active form of the vitamin in the body.”
Learn more about the difference between vitamin D2 and D3 here.
The Top Vegan Sources of Vitamin D
Many vegans or those with dietary restrictions are surprised to find there are diverse options available for receiving vitamin D2.
Here are some vegan foods high in vitamin D:
Fortified Soy, Nut-Based or Dairy-Free Milk
Many vegans already replace traditional cow or goat’s milk with a soy or nut-based alternative. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that many of these milk products are fortified with vitamin D2.
For instance, 8 ounces of almond milk contains 25% of the recommended daily value (%DV) of vitamin D, according to The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Data Central database. Rice milk, for instance, also contains the helpful vitamin.
While traditional cashew milk does not, look out for fortified milk products and always check the Nutrition Facts Panel on the carton. Click here to see where you can find vitamin D on the label.
Fortified Oat, Bran or Nut-Based Cereals or Breakfast Bars
Pair your vitamin D-rich vegan milk with a fortified breakfast cereal for a double dose of the sunshine vitamin. Many major brands are mixing High Vitamin D mushrooms powder into their best-selling products, fortifying the food with significant amounts of D2.
Even breakfast bar makers are incorporating vegan-friendly mushroom powder into their nut-based snacks, sometimes using vegan chocolate for the perfect balance of savory and sweet.
Fortified Orange Juice
While most traditional orange juice cartons do not contain vitamin D, some food manufacturers are starting to fortify their OJ with the sunshine vitamin. However, be certain to check the ingredients statement, as animal-sourced vitamin D3 is often used instead of vegan-friendly D2.
Orange juice is also a terrific source of vitamin C and other important nutrients like calcium, potassium and more, so if you can find one enhanced with even more of a vitamin punch than usual by adding vitamin D, be sure to add it to your cart.
High Vitamin D Mushrooms
“High Vitamin D” mushrooms are shockingly the only significant source of vitamin D in the produce department, as no other fruits and vegetables contain enough of the nutrient to be considered significant.
Because mushrooms exposed to UV light can be very high in the vitamin, the mighty mushroom is a favorite source of vitamin D for vegans and meat eaters alike. Whether the fungi are foraged from their natural habitat in the wild or grown commercially using proprietary light designed to mimic the sun’s rays, High Vitamin D mushrooms are great ways to sneak more nutrients onto your plate.
Here’s a chart that shows are how different varieties of mushrooms stack up against each others’ vitamin D levels:
Thinking about trying some more obscure mushrooms as a natural source of vegan vitamin D? Here are 15 insanely delicious High Vitamin D mushroom recipes to experiment with by adding friendly fungi to your diet.
Fortified Soups & Broths
Some vegan soups are hitting the shelves with vitamin D-rich servings. Just like those mixing mushroom powder into orange juice or breakfast items, food manufacturers are incorporating small ratios of the powder into their stews or straight broths, without compromising flavor. In soups where mushroom’s umami flavor can enhance the taste, you may receive an even larger burst of vitamin D.
Be on the lookout for spaghetti sauces fortified with vitamin D, especially those that include mushrooms, which can be natural sources of the nutrient. Or “fortify” your own vegan sauces with the vitamin right at home by using High Vitamin D mushrooms with our favorite sauteéd mushrooms recipe!
While not traditionally what comes to mind when you hear “sauce,” applesauce is an excellent food to blend with vitamin D-rich mushroom powder. Make mushroom powder right at home by dehydrating and then grinding down Monterey’s High Vitamin D mushrooms.
Remember that you have other ways to receive vitamin D than through food sources; for instance, you can ingest this nutrient in the form of a daily pill or capsule.
Dietary supplements are available for both D2 and D3. Be sure to consult your physician before adding any new supplements to your diet, or with questions concerning the daily dose of vitamin D that is right for you.
Last but certainly not least, we recommend getting outdoors and receiving vitamin D in another natural way: by soaking up some life-giving sunshine.
Your doctor can offer recommendations for protecting yourself against UV rays while still welcoming vitamin D.
Try High Vitamin D Mushrooms
For a more robust list of foods fortified with vitamin D beyond vegan options, read our other blog on natural sources of vitamin D.
Considering trying High Vitamin D mushrooms? Use the Monterey High Vitamin D mushroom finder to find a retailer near you that carries fresh High Vitamin D mushrooms.
Download our free eBook, Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin D & Mushrooms to learn more about this special nutrient and all benefits of eating mighty mushrooms.