nutrition

The 7 Highest Vitamin D Foods for Vegetarians | Care/of

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

5 min read

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As a vegetarian, it can be hard to balance your vitamin D levels. Here is a guide to the highest vitamin D foods for vegetarians.

While the FDA recommends between 400 and 800 IU of vitamin D, the majority of us do not reach that level. Vitamin D is a naturally-occurring vitamin that helps support calcium absorption and bone development, making it one of the most important vitamins to get. Even though we are able to make vitamin D ourselves with the help of sunlight, it can be difficult to get high enough vitamin D levels into our systems.

Especially as the winter months draw near and many of us will be getting less natural sunlight, it is essential to supplement our vitamin D intake with our diet. Fortunately, many foods are rich in vitamin D. For more information about the best foods to increase your vitamin D intake, keep reading.

Why does your body need vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble essential vitamin that is found in food and naturally occurs in sunlight. This vitamin provides a wide array of health benefits. Most importantly, vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption in the body.

By balancing our calcium and phosphate levels, vitamin D ensures adequate bone development. According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin D deficiency can cause our bones to become brittle and thin. Vitamin D is essential for healthy and strong bones.

By supporting our natural vitamin D levels with a proper diet and supplements, keeping your vitamin D levels up will be a breeze.

Best 7 vitamin D foods for vegetarians

Being a vegetarian should not limit your vitamin D intake! Fortunately, there are many vitamin D-enriched foods available to support your diet.

Soy products for vitamin D

Many soy milks are fortified with vitamin D. While dairy products are great at boosting vitamin D levels, many milk alternatives also provide a much-needed blast of vitamin D.

While cow’s milk usually contains vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol, soy milks typically contain more vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol.

Cheese for vitamin D

Like many dairy products, cheese is rich in vitamin D. Cheese is not fortified like milk or yogurt, but some varieties of cheese have vitamin D occurring naturally, such as fontina and American cheese. American cheese can have up to 85 IU of vitamin D per 1.5 oz portion!

Milk for vitamin D

Many dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, including milk. Because vitamin D helps support bone health by aiding with calcium absorption, it makes sense to enrich our dairy milk with vitamin D.

In addition to milk, dairy products such as eggs and butter contain vitamin D, too! Egg yolks, in particular, are naturally rich in vitamin D.

Best fruits for vitamin D

If you’d like to get more vitamin D from your daily fruit intake, orange juice is the best place to start. Many orange juice brands fortify their beverages with vitamin D. Orange juice is also ideal for those who do not enjoy drinking milk or milk alternatives.

In fact, recent studies have shown that orange juice fortified with vitamin D2 or D3 can be as effective and impactful as taking daily supplements. Orange juice is also naturally rich in vitamin C, boosting your immune system and giving you a great start to your day.

Best fish for vitamin D

Oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon, are well known to have vitamin D naturally occurring in their flesh. While we may need further exploration of how much of the naturally occurring vitamin D actually makes it through the cooking process and onto your plate, fish is still a great place to incorporate extra vitamin D.

Fish such as blue fish, cod, wild salmon, and tuna all contain hundreds of IU of vitamin D per ounce. Vitamin D-rich proteins like these are ideal for incorporating into your weekly meal rotation.

Best vegetables for vitamin D

Though many vegetables may not produce as high levels of vitamin D as other foods, there are several vegetables to incorporate into your meal plan. Leafy greens contain high levels of calcium, making them an ideal side dish for a vitamin D-rich dinner. The pairing of fatty fish with kale or collard greens can help the body absorb calcium.

Mushrooms for vitamin D

As far as vegetables go, mushrooms contain the highest levels of vitamin Dby far. Mushrooms naturally contain high levels of ergosterol, which is a precursor to this essential nutrient. Once the mushrooms are exposed to UV rays, the ergosterol becomes vitamin D2 called ergocalciferol.

Mushrooms are a great vegetable for increasing amounts of vitamin D in your diet. Mushrooms are versatile, popular, and relatively inexpensive. Thanks to increased UV exposure, mushrooms can contain 10 μg/100 g of vitamin D or more.

Other natural sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D is not named the “Sun Vitamin” for no reason! One of the easiest places to get vitamin D is sunshine. Being exposed to sunlight allows our bodies to naturally create vitamin D.

Because sunlight is a major source of vitamin D for humans, people who live in climates with limited sun exposure need to be sure to supplement their sunlight exposure with a diet that is rich in this essential vitamin or risk a vitamin D deficiency.

While natural vitamin D is great, it is important to use proper sun protection when outdoors. Too much sun exposure can damage the skin and risk sunburn and premature aging.

Best vitamin D supplements

While vitamin D-heavy diets are great, they may not be sustainable for all of us. Those who follow dairy-free or vegan diets may not be able to reach their desired vitamin D levels without fish and dairy. If you struggle to get enough vitamin D in your diet, supplements are a great alternative.

Supplements are great for quick boosts of nutrients. They are portable, fast, and hassle-free. Vegan-friendly vitamin D supplements can help everyone reach their goals without stress!

Key takeaways

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin with many health benefits. Vitamin D assists our bodies with calcium absorption, which is crucial to healthy bone development.

Though we naturally create vitamin D when we are out in the sun, it is important to incorporate vitamin D into our diets. Many types of food contain high vitamin D levels, including fish, dairy products, mushrooms, and fortified orange juice.

If you find you are still struggling to get enough vitamin D, a supplement may be the best choice for you. For more information about vitamin D supplements, check out our vitamin D lineup!

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