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Ever wonder why you feel so good after spending a day in the sun? Well, it might be because your body has just made a great big supply of vitamin D! However, if you follow a plant-based diet, getting some sunshine may not be enough; you may also need to take a vegan vitamin D supplement to stay healthy.
Vitamin D is essential to the upkeep of our skeletal, nervous, and immune systems, yet a lot of us may be deficient. Back when people worked outdoors, walked everywhere, and had never heard of sunscreen, getting enough vitamin D wasn’t a problem.
Today, vegans are particularly at risk because our diet lacks vitamin D-rich foods like fish, eggs, meat, and fortified milk.
This article will help you understand the difference between D2 and D3 and we’ll explore some food sources of vitamin D for vegetarians too. We’ll also review the top supplements so you can pick the best vegan vitamin D supplement for you.
Remember, scheduling a visit with your doctor is a must before making any dietary or supplement changes, but our guide will give you an idea of what’s out there and point you in the direction of some of the best vegan vitamin D supplements on the market.
Let’s start with a few basics first, though.
What are some vegan vitamin D foods?
Not gonna lie: there are very few vitamin D3 vegan sources. If we don’t count sunlight and supplements, the only rich sources of vitamin D for vegetarians are mushrooms, fortified non-dairy milk, and fortified tofu. That’s pretty much it.
If you’re depending on vegan milk and tofu recipes to get your vitamin D, be sure to read the label to make certain they’re fortified. If you’re sticking to a raw vegan or minimally processed diet, we hope you like mushrooms! (TIP: Learn how to store fresh mushrooms here)
If you do, great; you can also further enhance their vitamin D content by placing them out in the sun briefly before you begin cooking.
With this limited list of vegan vitamin D foods, you can see how easily a cruelty-free diet could lack the necessary amounts of vitamin D. A lot of us simply can’t rely on sunshiny days to provide for our vitamin D needs. We have to turn to supplements.
Vitamin D2 and D3: what’s the difference?
If you’ve done any research about vitamin D supplements, you’ve probably stumbled across debates about vitamin D2 versus vitamin D3. Here’s a quick run-down so you know the difference:
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
- Made by certain plants and mushrooms
- Often used to fortify foods like tofu and milk
- Less effective in the human body
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
- Made by animals
- Found in animal food products
- Very effective in the human body
So clearly, vitamin D3 is the way to go. The problem for vegans is that vitamin D3 is found in animal foods. This used to be the case exclusively, but recent developments have brought us one exception. Keep reading to learn more!
READ NEXT: BEST CRUELTY-FREE SUNSCREEN
What’s in a vitamin D vegan supplement?
The vitamin D in most supplements is usually derived from lanolin which comes from sheep’s wool. We vegans don’t use any animal products, even the by-products of wool, so lanolin is a definite no-no. So, what to do?
Thankfully, today, we’re lucky to have a number of cruelty-free vitamin D supplements available. Not long ago, there simply were no plant-based vitamin D options, so things were a little tough on those following a vegan diet.
Nowadays, however, there is a vegan-friendly vitamin D source which is extracted from lichen. Lichen looks like a plant, but it’s actually different types of algae, bacteria, and fungi living together in a mutually beneficial relationship.
More good news: lichen vitamin D is vitamin D3—the most bioactive form called cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is the same stuff that our bodies make when exposed to sunlight, and cholecalciferol is easy to absorb from supplements and use in the various systems in our body.
Why should I take a vegan D3 vitamin?
If you work indoors, live in a region with cloudy seasons, or always wear sunblock when you go outside, then you may not be getting the vitamin D your body needs – regardless of whether you’re vegan or not. (1)
Other people at risk are the elderly, breastfeeding moms, people with darker skin (melatonin slows production of vitamin D), and anyone who is significantly overweight.
The importance of vitamin D for our health cannot be overstated. Low blood levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, bone fractures, severe asthma in children, and neurological problems in older adults.
However, in the short term, the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be very subtle. You may have some muscular pain similar to feeling sore after exercising. You may be fatigued, feel a little run down, or generally out of sorts. (2)
So, unless you experience a sudden bone fracture, you may not realize you’re deficient in vitamin D.
If you’re worried you’re not getting enough vitamin D, the first step is to talk to your doctor. He or she may do a blood test to determine your current levels. Keeping a food journal and bringing it to your appointment may also help your doctor assess your nutritional needs.
What should I consider when searching for the best vegan D3 vitamin for me?
Vegan vitamin D supplements tend to be fairly straight-forward. Some contain other vitamins or minerals, but most are just straight vitamin D. When shopping, you really need to consider how much vitamin D you need and what filler ingredients you want to avoid.
The daily recommended value for vitamin D is 600 IU for people under 70, and 800 IU for those over 70 years of age. Most supplements contain levels of vitamin D between 1000 and 5000 IU. The more deficient you are, the more you may benefit from a stronger dose (but talk to your doctor first).
Finally, be sure to always read ingredient lists. Just because a supplement is vegan doesn’t mean it is 100% natural or free from allergens. People with diabetes should be particularly vigilant because some vitamin D supplements contain sugar.
Vegan vitamin D supplements reviewed
Even if you’ve never thought about your vitamin D intake before, you may now be wondering if you’re getting all you need. Fortunately, there is a range of vegan-friendly vitamin D supplements on the market to help keep you healthy. Read on for our reviews of the top picks!
DailyD Vegan D3 Formula with VitaShine
In each drop of DailyD Vegan D3 Formula with VitaShine, you’ll find 2500 IU of vitamin D. A single bottle contains over 365 drops—a whole year’s worth of vitamin D!
For every bottle of DailyD purchased, DO Vitamins donates a bottle of vitamins to a child in need, so you can do good while feeling good.
Several customers report that taking DailyD Vegan D3 helped them reverse serious vitamin D deficiencies. Their blood tests are back to normal, and their doctors are happy. Customers also report feeling more energetic and upbeat after starting this supplement.
Because DailyD drops only contain vitamin D and medium-chain triglycerides from coconut oil, this supplement is safe for people with most common food allergies. However, MCTs have been known to cause stomach upset in some people.
There shouldn’t be enough in just a drop to cause issues, but you may want to skip this vegan D3 if you’ve had problems with MCT in the past.
The most common complaint about this vegetarian vitamin D is that the dropper is difficult to use. When the bottle is full, it’s hard to get just one drop out at a time. Some customers have found that refrigerating the drops makes them easier to dispense.
Overall, though some people missed the older capsule form of this product, many have converted to the drops with no issues. This vegan vitamin D3 is generally perceived as high-quality and effective for vegans and non-vegans alike.
- 2500 IU of Vitamin D
- Contains bioavailable cholecalciferol
- May help reverse deficiencies
- Dropper is hard to use at times
- May require refrigeration
- MCT from coconut oil may not work for some people
MRM Vegan D3
MRM Vegan D3 tablets contain a huge dose of cholecalciferol vitamin D: 5000 IU!
The product is also supposed to contain calcium, but the specific amount is not listed in the nutrition information. Only one small pill a day is required for the full dose of vitamin D.
This algae-derived supplement has many fans who have used it to boost their blood levels of vitamin D. Long-time customers report that MRM Vegan D3 is always consistent and high-quality. These vitamin D tablets are easy to swallow and gentle on the stomach.
However, MRM Vegan D3 may not be the best choice for people with diabetes. Even though the bottle claims the pills contain “no sugar,” both sucrose and maltodextrin are listed in the ingredients. In case you didn’t know, sucrose is a chemical name for…sugar.
The inclusion of maltodextrin may also be problematic for some. Maltodextrin has a glycemic index of 130, meaning it raises your blood sugar over twice as much as table sugar. Again, diabetics or anyone with blood sugar sensitivities may want to pick another supplement.
- 5000 IU of bioavailable Vitamin D
- Contains calcium
- Only one small pill needed per day
- Contains sugar—even though the label says it doesn’t
- Contains maltodextrin
- Not suitable for diabetics
Real Dose Essentials Doctor Formulated Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement
If you don’t want a huge dose of vitamin D in your supplement, then Real Dose Essentials Doctor Formulated Vegan Vitamin D3 Tablets may be right for you.
Each supplement contains 1000 IU of Vitamin D. Though this is still more that the daily value (which is 600-800 IU), Real Dose Essentials contains less vitamin D than the other supplements on this list.
Besides the bioactive, non-lanolin source of Vitamin D, the only other ingredients in Real Dose Vegan Vitamin D3 supplements are rice flour and a vegetarian capsule to hold it all together. The formula is both non-GMO and gluten free. This simple ingredient list makes this a good choice for diabetics or people with food allergies.
This vitamin D source for vegetarians has a lot of avid fans. Reviews suggest it has helped people with everything from low energy to adult acne. People also seemed to like that smaller amount of vitamin D in each pill also makes it easier to control dosing.
There aren’t really any complaints about Doctor Formulated Vitamin D3. However, if your doctor tells you that you have a serious deficiency, this may not be the right supplement. Because there’s just 1000 IU in each pill, you may end up taking a lot to get the quantity of vitamin D that you need to get you back up to where you need to be.
- Only three ingredients
- GMO and gluten free
- May help improve skin, energy, and mood
- Possibly less effective for people who are seriously vitamin D deficient
Doctors Best Vegan D3 Vegetarian Capsules
Doctors Best Vegan D3 Vegetarian Capsules, like the others on this list, contains vitamin D in the form of cholecalciferol. Each small, easy-to-swallow pill will provide you with 2,500 IU of bioavailable vitamin D3.
Lots of happy customers love this supplement for the feeling of energy and well-being that it provides. They particularly recommend it to anyone who lives in an overcast climate.
A lot of people felt this helped them kick the “winter blues” during those times when they weren’t getting enough vitamin D from sunlight. On the other hand, this vegan D3 supplement is not ideal for diabetics. It contains maltodextrin and sucrose, both of which can, of course, raise blood sugar.
Finally, the pills do have a slight odor which bothered some people. This didn’t seem to be a big issue, however. Overall, health-conscious customers loved the way they felt on this vegan vitamin D, even on the dreariest winter days.
- Vitashine bioactive D3
- May help boost mood and energy
- Small pills provide a large dose
- Contains maltodextrin and sucrose
- Capsules have an odor that some people didn’t like
Garden of Life Vitamin D3 MyKind Vegan Organic D Vitamin Whole Food Supplement for Immune and Bone Health
Garden of Life Vitamin D3 MyKind Vegan Organic D comes in chewable lemon raspberry tablets. Each dose contains 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 from lichen. The tablets contain no sugar or stevia and are flavored with plant-derived ingredients.
The reviews posted by customers suggest that Garden of Life Vitamin D3 supplements are an effective and enjoyable way to get your vitamin D. Several people say that they can tell the difference in their mood and overall well-being when taking these vitamins.
Though some describe the taste as “mild” and “pleasantly sour,” there are others who say these D3 tablets taste too much like mushrooms. The texture, which some people described as “gritty” and “chalky,” seemed to be harder to get past. Garden of Life Vegan Organic D can be easily split in half, but the pills may still be too large for some people to swallow.
The biggest issue with this vegan D3 supplement seems to be the long list of ingredients. Though most of the fillers and flavors are derived from whole foods like carrot and mushrooms, there are some inclusions that have people concerned. Notably, maltodextrin makes an another appearance in trace amounts near the end of the ingredient list.
- 2,000 IU in easy-to-divide tablets
- All organic ingredients
- Texture was unpleasant to some
- Long ingredient list
- Small amounts of maltodextrin
So which is the best vegan vitamin D3 supplement?
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If you can’t wait for the sun to come out tomorrow and need a vitamin D vegan supplement, we recommend Real Dose Essentials Doctor Formulated Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement.
People love this vegan source of vitamin D for complaints ranging from acne to low energy. With 1000 IU in each pill, it’s easy to take more or less of this supplement to fit your needs.
We also love that Real Dose Essentials Vegan D3 contains only three ingredients: bioactive vitamin D, rice flour, and the vegetarian capsule itself. The absence of allergens and sugars means this vitamin D pill is likely to work for a lot of different people.
On the other hand, if you’re experiencing serious vitamin D deficiencies, you may want to check with your doctor about using a more potent supplement. Many people may not realize that the healthy habit of wearing sunscreen can actually be harmful to your body’s supply of vitamin D.
Vegans may be particularly at risk because we don’t eat the foods that are high in vitamin D.
There are some good options for vegan vitamin D3 supplements on the market, but they’re hard to find. Most vitamin D is derived from sheep’s wool and isn’t vegan-friendly.
Thanks to lichen, however, we can now buy vegan-approved vitamin D3 to keep life feeling sunny.
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- WebMD | Vitamin D Deficiency | https://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/vitamin-d-deficiency#2
- Franziska Spritzler, Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, M.D., MPH | 8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency | https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-deficiency-symptoms