This in-depth video and written post will go into
My Top 4 Sources of Vitamin D for Vegans
to help you ensure you can easily get enough of this important nutrient as a vegan or raw vegan!
Vitamin D is a big one, I find this one nutrient, along with Vitamin B12 (of which I also have a very detailed video and post on B12 here), to be some of the hottest topics of debate, controversy, and concern in terms of overall health, immunity and wellness. I have met many people who are frightened to become a vegan or sway from their vegan diet when someone or some source drives fear into them about a possible deficiency of either Vitamin D or B12, I want to quell all your fears and arm you with the info you need to be able to take charge of your health. Sadly slight Vitamin D deficiency is pretty common nowadays for a variety of reasons that we will go over in this post, S.A.D aka Seasonal Affective Disorder affects far too many people and is marked by low D levels bringing depression, tiredness, and general listlessness.
Today we are going to tackle Why Vitamin D is so important for a healthy lifestyle as well as my top 4 sources of vitamin D for vegans to help ensure that you have all the info you need to get enough vitamin D on your Raw Vegan Lifestyle, even in the winter time if you live far up north or down south.
Vitamin D is important for a wide range of functions. For example, it helps to regulate the amount of calcium as well as phosphate in the body, these nutrients are important in keeping the bones and teeth healthy. Chronically low levels of Vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children as well as bone pain and tenderness as a result of a condition known as osteomalacia in adults. Deficiency in vitamin D has been shown to be connected to and or negatively affect obesity, diabetes, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis, possibly MS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases like crone’s disease and ulcerative colitis, heart disease, and increased incidence of heart attacks and strokes as well as a variety of other chronic degenerative diseases and overall immune function.
Vitamin D is such an important nutrient for such a wide array of hormone functions and health conditions, or more accurately so important in staying healthy vital, and balanced that I feel it’s about time I tackle this subject. My mission with this post is to help bring complete ease to the whole thought of Vitamin D, to make it so simple to get enough, no matter where you are that it’s truly a non-issue.
As with anything I would recommend doing your own research, coming up with your own numbers and needs finding ease and peace in your own intuition and findings.
Here is a helpful post on optimal vitamin D elves by Dr. Greger. Some people recommend much Higher Levels than even recommended here for better health, thus the debate/controversy continues.
To My Top 4 Sources of Vitamin D for Vegans
Yes, that’s right boys and Girls, The Sun!
Part of the reason there is such confusion from the mainstream media about Vitamin D is that it corresponds with so many health issues, has such profit potential, and yet is 100% free from the sun. Giving straightforward info without scare tactics would lose many industries a lot of money. The sun is the safest most effective, natural longest-used supply of Vitamin D for humans. We can produce all that we need with zero chance of overdosing by getting adequate sun exposure but there are some caveats, such as avoiding burning or excessive mid-day sun. Vitamin D is produced by our skin’s interaction with UVB light when it interfaces with a form of Cholesterol in our skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol. A series of Complex steps proceed that we do not need to go into it here.
One interesting controversy around vitamin D production in and on the skin is that the first step of production is said by some to occur on the surface of the skin and that it takes hours to develop and absorb, I have heard as long as 24 hours after exposure for full absorption. What this would mean is that directly after sun exposure it is to your benefit to refrain from hot showers or using soap all over your body. Further investigation into this reveals it to only be partly true and that most of the vitamin D is made and absorbed in lower layers of the skin with a relatively smaller amount on the surface of the skin. Even still, if you are low and are looking for the largest safe amount of absorption it may be worthwhile to simply rinse off with cool water and soap your “stinky parts” for even better Vitamin D absorption rather than taking a hot shower and full body soaping after time in the sun. Another important note to consider is that many mainstream sunscreens, despite containing toxic potentially cancer-causing, hormone-mimicking substances (join my mailing list for a free report that goes deeper into this) can also block up to 95% of Vitamin D production, even at as little as 8 SPF. A much better alternative IMHO is Raw Unprocessed Coconut Oil being a 4 SPF with the addition of a bit of carrot oil which is 40 SPF, to bring up the overall SPF percentage, which can help a bit as pre-sun exposure protection or aftercare for light burns.
The short and skinny of it is, enjoy soaking up the sun, allowing as much skin exposure as you can on the largest amount of your body as possible, but be careful not to burn. It’s no coincidence that when you are eating a diet high in water and antioxidants, such as a diet made up of, mostly of, or entirely of fresh raw ripe whole fruits and vegetables, your ability to take the sun, heal from a burn, and/or develop and retain a tan is heightened. The best times of day to take sun IMHO ( coming from a place of wanting to be in it comfortably for a decent amount of time, not less) are in the morning hours before 10-11 am and after mid-day, or when the sun is the highest. If you can barely see your shadow you run the risk of burning much faster, generally, if your shadow is as tall as you or taller this is the best time to take the sun, that is if you wish to take it for pleasure rather than purpose.
On the other hand, if you have very little time and wish to get your Vitamin D from the sun as fast as possible the exact opposite seems to be true. There have been studies in England, Norway, and the US saying the optimal time to be in the sun for fast and efficient vitamin D production is as NEAR TO SOLAR NOON AS POSSIBLE. That would be between say 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. The first reason you would need a shorter exposure time in these conditions is that the UVB is more intense. The second reason is that when the sun heads towards the horizon, the UVB is filtered out much more than the UVA (which is the wave highly correlated with melanoma) while the UVB is the one that produces the vitamin D. Either way it’s up to you to decide when you take the n exposure, but do watch for any signs of burning as overdoing anything, even healthful things, can be harmful!
During the summer months and closer to the equator the sun is much much stronger, the further from the equator you are and the further from summer generally the lower the vitamin D Production will be. One thing to consider, is that elevation is a factor, being on top of a mountain up north you would be exposed to more UVB and will produce more vitamin D than in a valley, but you are also exposed to more UVA and are at a higher risk of sunburn. A helpful tip, if you can get a tan in your current environment then you can more easily produce adequate Vitamin D, if you can not then you are less likely to and it’s wise to look into my other top tips to get enough vitamin D, and or to get periodic blood tests to see where you are at, my favorite test is Vitamin D 25-Hydroxy, this test determines vitamin d3 status.
The amount of time you will need in the sun to get adequate Vitamin D is also in relation to your Skin tone, the darker your skin the longer it will take to produce adequate vitamin D. This is an adaptation from living in more tropical regions being out in the sun longer. These days with busy indoor lives it makes it much harder for those with dark skin to get enough. Here’s a link to a really handy calculator that shows the altitude and azimuth of the Sun during any part of the year and any part of the world.
An extra amazing benefit of sun exposure is that within 30 minutes of exposure to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight, you can get a significant drop in blood pressure and improvement in artery function, thanks to a burst of nitric oxide-releasing compounds that flow into your bloodstream. You can even measure the nitric oxide gas, gassing straight off of the skin. This all said you have to eat greens or beets in the first place for this to happen, but that combo of greens and sunlight may help explain some of the extra benefits and protection that plant-based eaters experience.
No need for stress, rather Do some of your own research, see how you feel, and use it all as relevant information alongside the 4 options I provide.
Sun gazing is another way to get Vitamin D from the sun, an ancient practice simply marked by gazing at the morning sunrise and evening Sunset, considered a form of Yoga, practiced by many ancient cultures. If you think about it who doesn’t naturally feel at ease and at peace watching a sunset or sunrise? This brings an automatic Meditative state with a wide range of benefits. Even Light boxes or S.A.D therapy instructs the user to face the lightbox in order to get the UV in the Eyes. If this resonates with you I would highly recommend researching this on your own as well as checking out my brother from another mother Brian Calvi’s (from The Farm of Life) videos all about it Here.
If you live in an area that doesn’t get much sun or is far from the equator during the winter months, I recommend prioritizing a vacation to the tropics or subtropics as much as possible, consider getting up into the mountains to hike, ski or snowboard, and to take some sun where you can get it. Otherwise, simply look below for my other 3 tips from my Top 4 Sources for Vitamin D as a raw vegan!
(store-bought varieties Crimni, Portabello, Button, and Shitaki are best, never pick and eat unless you really really know what you are doing)
Yes, Mushrooms!! Mushrooms as well as Lichen (more on this below) are some of the only “plant”* sources of Vitamin D for vegans, more accurately Vitamin D2. While Vitamin D3 is what our body produces and is surely a superior Vitamin D source, Vitamin D2 has been shown to be effective in treating Rickets and S.A.D albeit requiring larger doses more often. To me, this is no problem as I love love love mushrooms and can easily enjoy eating them once or a few times a week. Not coincidentally I find that I am attracted to and love eating Mushrooms even more during the winter months when my Vitamin D needs Increase, I otherwise utilize 3 of my 4 Favorite Sources for Vitamin D anyhow.
*“plant” as there is some controversy about whether mushrooms are truly Plants… I think so 😉
Many well-reputed experts actually say you should never eat raw mushrooms at all, and that they should always be cooked. There are two main reasons for this and I will go into both as well as why I am not concerned.
The first reason often given is that there is information showing that raw mushrooms contain higher levels of toxic substances such as Agaritine than when cooked. Being an avid researcher and lifelong learner, as well as a mushroom lover, I dug deeper.
The studies showing any concern over toxicity that is most often referenced in such articles are:
1. are done on mice and rats, of which we are neither and
2. utilized mega doses of synthetic agaritine equivalent to a year’s worth of servings of mushrooms all at once, or unrealistic large amounts of mushrooms served consecutively over days.
To really hammer this point home here is a link to the newest available research on this subject where Dr. Greger voices and substantiates what I have mentioned above.
It’s important to note that all foods have some level of toxicity, even greens contain certain toxic substances that when eaten in isolation or in unrealistic high amounts can cause issues. This is in part why it is good to rotate our greens and to pay attention to our body’s signals focusing on enjoyment and stopping when we clearly notice that enjoyment goes away. This isolated viewpoint also negates the reality that all nutrients work in concert with other nutrients, not in isolation, and besides that, the truth is that mushrooms also have many other super healthful nutrients that are often found in lower amounts in other plant foods such as chromium, iodine, and selenium. Lastly, while not crucial, it has been shown that the agaritine content of mushrooms goes down over time and is reduced by drying, refrigeration, and exposure to UV light, enough so that the average mushroom you would purchase has very small amounts. When using the techniques I do for preparing mushrooms (sunning and or drying) the amount is even lower 🙂
The second reason some say we should avoid raw mushrooms is due to the fact that they are grown in / with feces. This IMHO is more valid than the first concern and yet can be rectified fairly easily. Most chefs do not like to wash mushrooms as they are porous and absorb water, if you do want to wash them do so with running water over the top and gently scrub downward with your finger, a cloth or paper towel. Others simply rub each dry mushroom with a damp cloth or paper towel, lastly, one can peel the skin off if desired and remove the stem. I simply prefer to expose my mushrooms to UV / UVB light preferably under the bright hot sun and otherwise under a UVB grow light. It is well known that UV light is a powerful antibacterial and increases the vitamin D content considerably as mentioned below. With this all in mind, it is most often that the immune-compromised, seniors, children, or pregnant women are recommended to cook them. We all must make our own decisions for our health, I for one, am not worried and feel a small amount of bacteria can actually have a positive overall effect on my microbiome and immune health. That said if one simply prefers to lightly steam or bake their mushrooms for extra safety that’s their choice.
Aside from all of this, for me personally, I know during the winter months especially I desire mushrooms. I love the flavor as well as the texture and only find benefits from eating them. I have eaten lots over the winter months with zero negative noticeable side effects. My personal favorites are the button mushrooms, crimini, shitake, oyster, and portobello.
Something really cool about mushrooms briefly mentioned above is that when mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet light, sunlight, or artificial UVB light, their Vitamin D levels increase significantly. Significantly may be an understatement, The mushroom Lady describes this finding: “It has been demonstrated that when white button mushrooms are exposed to Ultraviolet B radiation, for a short period of time, the level of Vitamin D increases to levels many times the minimum daily requirement, i.e. 400 IU (10 mcg.) Normally, a serving** of white button mushrooms contains 18 IU, international units, (0.45 mcg.). Treated mushrooms contain over 3200 IU (80 mcg.)***”
** 1 serving is equal to 100g of white button mushrooms.
***Mattila, P.H., Food Chemistry, 2002Further
Even more amazing, in the summer of 2004, mycologist Paul Stamets discovered that the level of vitamin D in freshly picked, indoor-grown shiitake mushrooms rose from 110 IU (2.75 mcg) to an astonishing 46,000 IU (1150 mcg.) per 100 grams when the mushrooms were placed outdoors in the sun for just six hours with the gills facing up (when the gills were facing down, the level rose to 10,900 IU (272.5 mcg.)). This shows that The mushrooms Produce much more vitamin D with their gills facing Up, further studies have shown that there is no significant increase after 16 hours of sun exposure.
Home Phototherapy Equipment aka Vitamin D Lamps
If you are unable to get adequate amounts of sun exposure due to the time of year or because of your geographical location, the next best way is via a quality vitamin d lamp. As an added bonus both sunlight and quality vitamin D lamps have benefits beyond vitamin D. New studies have shown that when near-infrared rays penetrate your skin they can activate chlorophyll by-products in your bloodstream, from the greens we hopefully eat, to make Co-Q10.
Well there you have it, those are my
My Top 4 Sources of Vitamin D for Vegans
Wishing You Much