The “sunshine vitamin,” or vitamin D, is a family of compounds boasting many benefits, including mood regulation, normal immune system function facilitation, and the ability to increase the intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate.
As the nickname suggests, our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, not all of us can get enough vitamin D through the sun alone. This can be due to quarantining, living in an area with high pollution, using sunscreen, living in big cities with buildings blocking sunlight, having darker skin, and/or simply not exposing much skin for the sun to work its magic on.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE D?
WHAT HAPPENS IF I HAVE A VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY?
A lack of vitamin D can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Just like with any other deficiencies, your body is going to make sure to let you know that you are lacking vitamin D. Some common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in adults include getting sick more often, experiencing fatigue and hair loss, and generally a lowered mood. But the list doesn’t just end here, unfortunately.
“Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, heart failure and ischemic heart disease,” state Doctors Suzanne Judd and Vin Tangpricha.
Additionally, because vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of bones, the lack of vitamin D in your body can lead to a list of problems with your bones.
“The consequences of vitamin D deficiency are secondary hyperparathyroidism and bone loss, leading to osteoporosis and fractures, mineralization defects, which may lead to osteomalacia in the long term, and muscle weakness, causing falls and fractures,” Paul Lips and Natasja M. van Schoor at Department of Epidemiology Biostatistics, EMGO institute for Health and Care Research.
WHAT ARE THE BEST NATURAL SOURCES OF VITAMIN D?
Very few foods in naturally contain vitamin D (NIH), because in nature there is relatively little shortage of sunlight. Foods rich in vitamin D are fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines), fish liver oils and egg yolks.
Due to our need for Vitamin D and the relatively low natural sources available, many foods are fortified with it, such as milks (plant and dairy), cereals, juices, cheese, and dairy. In fact, in Canada, fortification of milk and butter is mandated by law!
Plant-based vitamin D sources are kelp and mushrooms – though mushrooms provide a different form of it - D2 – rather than D3. Scientists continue to research the promise of land plants in providing D3, and have found preliminary sources in the plant leaves of certain nightshade vegetables and peppers, but have found more availability underwater in certain kelp species.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN D2 AND D3?
Your skin makes vitamin D3 naturally when exposed to direct sunlight. Essentially, “your body converts a type of cholesterol called 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3 through a reaction that’s kicked off by ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.”
So, the first clear distinction between the two type is that vitamin D3 is derived naturally from animal sources, while vitamin D2 is produced by plants when exposed to UV light.
According to research, “vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans.” But D2 is also cheaper to produce – meaning vitamin D2 is usually the form that’s used in fortified foods. This is why you shouldn’t count on fortified foods alone to give you the vitamin D you need.
Additionally, vitamin D2 supplements might actually be of lower quality. Crazy, right? A study suggests that vitamin D2 is more sensitive to humidity and fluctuations in temperature, making vitamin D2 supplements more likely to lose their potency and degrade over time. This study even goes as far as to say that vitamin D2 should not even be a supplement and used for fortification.
HOW TO SUPPLEMENT WITH VITAMIN D
There is a slight problem with only relying on foods to get our vitamin D: V itamin D is fat-soluble, meaning that it dissolves well in fat or oils. So, if we are taking vitamin D supplements (rather than directly from animal food and/or fatty dairy), it’s better to consume it with foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and oils.
But what if that sounds like too much work for you? What if you are a busy person and don’t always have time to guarantee that you receive your vitamin D efficiently? That is where the science of supplementation comes in: ideally, you consume a vitamin D supplement that contains enough fat (in healthy form, such as MCT oil if you’re vegan or fish oil if you’re not) to facilitate the body’s ability to absorb it.
Since we know that vitamin D3 is much more effective in maintaining our vitamin D levels than vitamin D2 (approximately 87% more effective), and that the main sources of vitamin D3 are animal sources, what’s a vegan to do?
Traditionally, Vitamin D2 was the only non-animal source of Vitamin D and therefore the only source suitable for a range of demographics including individuals with a Vegan or Vegetarian diet. But not anymore.
At Mushroom Design, we use VegD3®, Vitamin D3 (in the form of cholecalciferol) that is 100% non-GMO and registered with the Vegan Society.
This vegan D3 supplement is produced from algae, and has undergone extensive testing using independent expert laboratories. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) has been used to demonstrate that it is chemically identical to Vitamin D3 of animal origin. To top it all off, VegD3® is 100% sustainable and responsibly sourced. So, you can still receive what is necessary for your body without compromising your values .