Vitamin D is an important part of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Much like some other nutrients, it can be challenging to find reliable sources of vitamin D in a vegetarian diet. The most abundant sources of vegetarian vitamin D can be found in eggs, mushrooms, and in fortified dairy and cereal products. Supplements and, perhaps most importantly, exposure to sunlight provide sources of vegetarian vitamin D as well.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that is necessary for the absorption of calcium and regulation of phosphorus in the blood. It is important to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D in order to keep bones healthy and strong and to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D has also been linked to hypertension, or high blood pressure, and has been known to help improve depression. Vitamin D is especially important for children, as a deficiency in the vitamin could result in rickets, a skeletal disease that is marked by soft bones.
Although vegetarians will not be able to partake in fish oil, one popular source of vitamin D, they can otherwise obtain vitamin D from much the same sources as meat eaters. One main source of vitamin D is obtained by consuming foods enriched with the vitamin. Many dairy products, such as milk, cheeses and even some soy milks are fortified with vitamin D. Oftentimes, breakfast cereals and soy products are also fortified.
Consuming natural dietary sources of vegetarian vitamin D can be difficult. Eggs are one source of vegetarian vitamin D, but only if the chickens that laid them were fed food that included vitamin D. Mushrooms can also be a good source of vitamin D, but only if the mushrooms were treated with UVB light.
One of the best ways to obtain vitamin D does not involve the diet at all — the body can synthesize its own vitamin D through exposure to UV light that occurs when individuals go out into the sunlight. It is suggested that 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure to at least the hands and face should supply a sufficient amount of vitamin D. Individuals with dark skin may need longer exposure to obtain the same results. It should be noted that skin must be completely uncovered for this to be effective — sun exposure through a window will not work, nor will exposure while wearing sunscreen. That said, it's also important to remember that too much sun exposure can result in skin burning and further health problems.
Even through daily exposure to the sun, eating eggs, mushrooms and fortified foods, the ideal daily amount of vitamin D can still be hard to archive. Supplements are a reliable way to help keep up vitamin D intake, yet it should be noted that too much vitamin D can be toxic, so following package dosing recommendations is important. In general, the recommended daily intake for adults under 50 years of age is 200 IU (5 micrograms), while it is suggested those above 50 years consume between 500 and 600 IU (10 to 15 micrograms) daily.