Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many aspects of health. Vitamin D is defined as a fat-soluble vitamin.
We often refer to it as a "vitamin," but vitamin D is in reality a hormone that the body can produce when exposed to sunlight. This hormone is then stored in the liver and fatty tissues, which can be used when needed.
Vitamin D is occasionally called the "sunshine vitamin". This is because our bodies can create it when our skin is exposed to natural sunlight. Just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day should be enough to give your body the vitamin D it needs.
Vitamin D can also play a role in immune function (study).* A lack of vitamin D (vitamin D deficiency), while rare, is an essential factor to look at for overall health.
Different types of vitamin D
We generally refer to two main forms of vitamin D when discussing the different types of vitamin D. You can find vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.
Vitamin D2 is found in plant-based foods, while vitamin D3 is usually found in animal-based foods.
Both types of vitamin D are essential for health, but vitamin D3 is considered to be more bioactive, meaning that it is better absorbed and used by the body. Vitamin D3 is sometimes referred to as cholecalciferol.
There are also several vegan-friendly sources of vitamin D3. Some of the best include fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, plant-based milk, and supplements.
Vegan vitamin D
When searching for a vegan-friendly supplement, look for one that uses lichen to produce its vitamin D3.
Lichen is a type of moss that you can find in many parts of the world. It is a sustainable source of vitamin D3, and it does not require any animal products or byproducts to produce.
How much vitamin D do you need?
The amount of vitamin D one needs depends on several factors, including age, diet, and time spent outdoors.
Some people don't get enough vitamin D from sunlight exposure or their diet, so they may need to take a supplement.*
Vitamin D supplements are available in capsules, powder, gummy, and liquid forms. You can also receive vitamin D through fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and cereals.
Foods rich in vitamin D
Foods that are rich in vitamin D also include fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Vitamin D and glutathione might also be intertwined in their effect on each other (study).
As always, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Get professional advice if you think you might need a vitamin D supplement or are already taking one to ensure you're not exceeding the amounts you may need.