Vitamin D

Where do vegans get their Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a very important nutrient, and you should pay attention to it. However, if you put a little thought to it when you start eating vegan, getting enough Vitamin D will be easy.

Here are answers to frequently asked Vitamin D questions and practical suggestions for meeting your Vitamin D needs, all backed up with quotes from registered dietitians. All the information in quotes comes from an article written by registered dietitian Jack Norris, and the American Dietetic Association’s position paper on vegetarianism.

1. How much Vitamin D do I need?

You need about 15 to 25 micrograms of Vitamin D per day.

To cover this requirement, follow the recommendations in question four. When choosing a supplement or fortified food, check the nutritional information section of the food package to make sure that the supplement or food provides this amount of Vitamin D.

2. Is it possible to get enough Vitamin D on a vegan diet?

It is possible to get enough Vitamin D on a vegetarian or vegan diet, as it is possible to get every nutrient on a plant-based diet. According the American Dietetic Association, “a [total] vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients [protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12]”

However, according to registered dietitian Jack Norris, “on average, vegans’ vitamin D levels are adequate, but somewhat lower than non-vegans.” But since Vitamin D levels on vegan diets are high enough, then yes, you can get enough vitamin D on a vegan diet.

3. Are animals a better source of Vitamin D than plants?

Yes, Vitamin D from animals is better than Vitamin D from plants, “as the vegan diet contains little, if any, vitamin D without fortified foods or supplements.” (Jack Norris, RD). However, Vitamin D from the sun is just as good as Vitamin D from animals, and Vitamin D from supplements and fortified foods can provide all the Vitamin D you need to be healthy.

4. How can I get enough vitamin D?

Eat foods fortified with Vitamin D. Fortified foods include plant milks, such as soy milk, almond milk and rice milk, and orange juice, and some cereals.

Get Vitamin D from the sun. According to Jack Norris, “If your arms and face (or the equivalent amount of skin or more) is exposed to the following amounts of midday sun (10 am to 2 pm), without sunscreen, on a day when sunburn is possible (i.e., not winter or cloudy), then you should not need any dietary vitamin D that day:

  • Light-skinned: 10 to 15 minutes
  • Dark-skinned: 20 minute
  • Elderly: 30 minutes”

Take a supplement. There are two forms of supplemental Vitamin D–D2 and D3. According to the American Dietetic Association, “vitamin D-2 and vitamin D-3 are equally effective.” You only need one, and vitamin D2 is vegan, while D3 comes from animals.


Disclaimer: Do not take this information as medical advice.  I am not an expert in nutrition, but I cite many credentialed doctors and registered dietitians.  Please see a qualified healthcare professional for advice.

“Calcium and Vitamin D for Vegans: Summarized!” Jack Norris RD. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Aug. 2013. <http://jacknorrisrd.com/calcium-and-vitamin-d-for-vegans-summarized/>.

Craig, Winston J., PhD, MPH, RD, and Ann R. Mangels, PhD, RD, LDN, FADA. “Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109.7 (2009): 1266-282. Print.