Natural Vegetarian Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in your health. It is the only vitamin that can be made by the human body from sunshine. Good food sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, yogurt, eggs, fatty fish, soy products and fortified cereals. The recommended adequate intake (AI) level for the active form of vitamin D (vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol) is 5 micrograms (mcg), or 200 International Units (IU) for adults aged 31 to 50 years. After age of 50, the AI increases to 10 mcg, or 400 IU. For vegetarians, particularly vegans (consume no animal products), getting enough vitamin D from food sources can be a challenge.



When your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun, a cholesterol-like compound is converted to a vitamin D precursor and then to vitamin D3, (or cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is activated by enzymes from the liver and then the kidney. Ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure (for most people, without sunscreen) approximately three times a week, makes enough vitamin D. It can be stored for several months in the body. It cannot be emphasized enough, vitamin D made by the body through sun exposure and activated by enzymes in the body is the best way to ensure optimal vitamin D status.


Most tofu is fortified with additional nutrients. One serving (79 g) of Nasoya light firm tofu offers 581 IU of vitamin D, while 1 cup of Silk light plain soy milk provides 338 IU. Soy milk (all flavors), nonfat, with added calcium, and vitamins A and D provides 297 to 313 IU depending upon the brand. Other varieties of soy milk, even of the same brand, may provide less vitamin D, such as 1 cup of Silk Plus Omega-3 DHA soymilk (218 IU) or Vitasoy Light vanilla soy milk (220 IU). Soy yogurt is another option. Silk plain soy yogurt provides 161 IU of vitamin D.


Fortified cereals are another option. Just one 1/2-cup serving of Kellogg’s All-Bran with extra fiber contains 219 IU of vitamin D while 1/2-cup serving of Kellogg’s All-Bran (original) provides 131 IU. Kellogg’s Fruit Harvest, Strawberry/Blueberry (3/4-cup serving) offers 111 IU of vitamin D and General Mills Berry Burst Cheerios (3/4-cup serving) provides 109 IU vitamin D. Some hot cereals are vitamin-D rich also. One packet of Quaker instant oatmeal, Nutrition for Women, any flavor, provides 185 to 188 IU of vitamin D. Since many cereals are fortified with vitamin D, check out the label of your favorite variety. Choose one that provides at least 100 IU of vitamin D per serving.


Fruits and vegetables are not considered, in general, to be good sources of vitamin D with a couple of exceptions. One cup of orange juice (fortified with calcium and vitamin D) offers 259 IU of vitamin D. The only vegetable considered to be naturally vitamin D-rich is the mushroom (canned, raw or cooked). One cup of canned mushrooms (drained, solids only) provides 168 IU of vitamin D while 1 cup of sliced white mushrooms offers 164 IU vitamin D.

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