Apart from the infamous B12, there’s another vitamin that our vegan society doesn’t usually get much of unless we spend countless hours sunbathing or happen to live in a tropical paradise.
Here, we will dive into the health benefits of this elusive vitamin, and look to find the greatest vegan-friendly vitamin D3 supplement that will boost your health exponentially.
Yes, some vitamin D supplements are made from sheep’s wool (as you may be aware), but we’re not going to be looking at any of those here – we’ll be sticking to vegan-friendly pills.
The Best Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplements (2021 Updated)
1 - Ora Organic (Editor's Choice)
Ora loves putting little jokes on their labels, describing these vitamin D3 pills as “sol food”.
It’s quite a word play because “sol” means “sun” in Spanish, and vitamin D has links to the sun’s UV rays.
Anyway, these pills provide you with a 2,000 IU serving of vitamin D3, all of which is sourced from lichen, which is a type of plant-meets-fungus.
As a result, these vitamin D supplements are vegan-friendly. The tablets are small and easy to swallow, which is always a plus in my book.
- Vitamin D3: 50mcg (2000 IU)
- 2,000 IU vitamin D3 per tablet
- Clean, organic ingredients
- No fillers
- Small and easy to swallow
- A little pricey (but good quality)
I soon found myself feeling more energetic and less achy since using these supplements, so naturally, I couldn’t be happier.
2 - RealDose Essentials
RealDose Essentials is an organic vitamin D3 formula that is free of lanolins and GMOs, helping you to maintain an organic vegan diet while getting all the nutrition that you need.
Each tablet contains D3 in a 1000 UI dose, helping you to maintain strong muscles, teeth, bones, calcium absorption, and a strong immune system.
If you’re looking for vitamin D without gelatin, RealDose is a high-value product that is derived from lichen, making it suitable for the vegan lifestyle.
What I also like about this product is that it's manufactured in the United States.
- Vitamin D3: 25mcg (1000 IU)
- Contains 1000 IU of vitamin D3
- 100% organic and made from high-quality ingredients
- Maintain strong teeth, bones, muscles, and immune system
- Free of lanolin and GMO
- Some users experience bloating
Ingredients are sourced from eco-friendly manner from sustainably grown lichen found on rocks and trees in North America, Asia, and Scandinavia.
3 - Dr Tobias Vitamin D3
If you feel like getting the most vitamin D in your diet, then Dr. Tobias is another good product.
It features 5000 IU in each capsule, so these plant based vitamins are enough to supplement any vegan’s diet.
Just in case that wasn’t enough, these pills also contain powerful antioxidants that help with immune support, meaning you can fight off illnesses and infections more easily while sticking to a vegan’s diet and lifestyle.
- Vitamin D3: 125mcg (5000IU)
- Packed with 5000 IU of vitamin D
- Also has powerful antioxidants to supplement a vegan's diet
- Feel more energetic by taking one capsule a day
- Can take a while to see results
After trying this out myself, I can honestly say I did feel a difference. Overall, I felt like I had more energy and just feel all round better.
4 - MRM Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement
MRM Vegan Vitamin D3 is an ideal choice for those that want a high-quality vitamin D supplement (that's not made from wool).
Per container, we're looking at 60 servings of 5000 IU of vegan vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, extracted from lichens.
This is my top pick because this supplement contains large amounts of vitamin D3: the form proven to reliably improve vitamin D status and reduce the risk of all-cause mortality.
Moreover, this supplement is free from common allergens such as soy, wheat, egg, gluten, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, soy, and milk products, and it's also GMO-free (if that's your thing).
- Vitamin D3: 125mcg (5000IU)
- Suitable for a plant-based diet
- High 5000 IU dose – brilliant for bone health
- Gluten-free and free from GMOs
- Small and easy to swallow capsules
- Produced in a GMP certified facility
- Contains additives such as maltodextrin and sucrose which don’t really need to be included
To sum it all up, this vitamin D supplement does what it promises to do - reviewers mention that taking this supplement successfully raised their vitamin D status from deficient to optimal.
5 - DailyD Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement
DailyD Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement delivers plant-based vitamin D extracted from lichen in a liquid drop form.
We're looking at vitamin D in its most bioavailable form: Vitamin D3.
Another positive feature is the large number of servings per container:
In total, there are 365 servings or drops in this flask, each providing 2.500 IU. Of course, if you want to up the dosage, a container will not last as long, but it's still great value.
There's not much else to add here; it's a basic vegan vitamin D supplement that delivers what is promised.
- Vitamin D3: 62.5cg (25000IU)
- Rich in cholecalciferol which is the same form of Vitamin D from the sun
- Plant-derived, certified vegan-friendly
- No allergens and GMO
- Delivery system can be improved
Now, one major drawback is the actual delivery system. It's almost impossible to get only one drop beneath your tongue with the dropper bottle’s design.
What Exactly is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble steroid hormones. These steroids are involved in a wide variety of critical body functions such as (1):
Regulating calcium levels in the body and supporting healthy bones (vitamin D deficiency is one of the leading causes for rickets in children), normal neuromuscular and immune function, reduction of inflammation, and a whole bunch of other things.
There are two variations of this vitamin, D2 and D3, which differ from each other in terms of their bioactivity:
Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is found in certain plants and mushrooms. It is produced as a response to UV radiation similarly to how our skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
So, wouldn't eating these plants and mushrooms be the obvious answer to vitamin D needs on a plant-based diet? That would be great, but unfortunately, there's a catch here.
Sadly, D2 is nowhere near as potent as D3 in improving vitamin D status:
Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is the most biologically active form of vitamin D.
D3 has been proven to be approximately 87% more potent in raising and maintaining Vitamin D blood levels, and produces 200-300% greater storage of vitamin D, compared to the D2 form (2).
Due to this difference in bioactivity, vitamin D3 also seems to decrease the risk of all-cause mortality while D2 has no such effect (3).
Basically, we want to focus our attention on vitamin D3 intake, and not D2. This form of vitamin D is the one that's produced in our skin when exposed to UV rays.
Now, there's also a small selection of natural dietary D3 sources in the form of animal products such as oily fish, liver, meats, and eggs. Though, the amount of D3 provided by these foods is very small compared to our own endogenous production:
For instance, spending a day at the beach can produce an amount equivalent to ingesting 10.000 to 25.000 IU of vitamin D. Compare that to the measly 87 IU present in 100 grams of eggs (4).
If you are using cancer cell lines or cancer cells, vitamin D has anti-cancer effects, and likewise in cells that have been used for models for infection and immune disorders, vitamin D has quite clear antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Martin Hewison, Molecular endocrinology professor at the University of Birmingham
Do Vegans Get Enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide (5).
Vegans do not usually get enough vitamin D in their diet. However, most vegetarians and omnivores will not get enough vitamin D in their diet either.
This is because our bodies produce vitamin D most effectively when exposed to sunlight. For people on a plant-based diet who want to increase their vitamin D intake, there are vegan vitamin D supplements available on the market that can help you with your daily nutrition.
How much vitamin d should a vegan take?
Vegans should take a minimum of 2000 IU per day of vitamin D. However, recent reports have suggested that this estimate may be wrong, with some researchers suggesting that we should consume between 8,000 and 10,000 IU daily in order to receive the full benefits of the vitamin (6).
Furthermore, clinical trial evidence shows that 10,000 IU per day of vitamin D3 is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects in almost all individuals, including vegans. Certain factors, including height and bodyweight, will also play a part in your recommended vitamin D intake (7).
Why You Probably Need More Than The Current RDA
According to new research, the current RDA at 600 IU per day to maintain 25(OH)D levels of 50 nmol/L may be far too low for optimal health.
While the RDA may be enough to support healthy bones and prevent rickets, as we know today, vitamin D is of critical importance for many other functions in the body, especially for the immune system (8).
This means that a higher intake of vitamin D can potentially offer many more health benefits than just for supporting bone health. And this is exactly what new evidence is suggesting: serum levels for 25(OH)D at a minimum of 75 nmol/L has been associated with (9) (10):
- Increased bone mineral density
- Improved dental health
- Reduced risk of fall fractures
- Less colorectal cancer
- Improved depression and wellbeing
If you need more than just Vitamin D, you can also opt for vegan multivitamins to get more nutrients that vegans are usually low of. I also made a list of multivitamins for vegetarians who needed more nutrients too.
1 in 5 people have low vitamin D levels (defined as serum levels below 25 nmol/L). Low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of poor musculoskeletal health such as rickets, osteomalacia, falls and poor muscle strength.
British Nutrition Foundation
What Vegan Foods Contain Vitamin D?
Vegan foods that contain vitamin D include the following:
- Mushrooms - maitake, button, morel, shiitake, and portobello mushrooms
Fortified milk – such as soy milk and almond milk
- Tofu – many tofu products contain 20% of your vitamin D RDA in 1 serving
Incorporating these foods into a vegan meal plan is wise, although we would still recommend that you take vegan vitamin D supplements as well – although rich in many daily nutrients, these foods are not very high in vitamin D.
What To Avoid When Buying Vitamin D Supplements
Beware, fellow vegan brothers and sisters.
It isn't as easy as walking into your supplement store and buying the first best D3 supplement; there are a couple of factors that you have to consider when looking for the #1 best D3 supplement.
First of all, as we've established, you don't want to purchase a vitamin D2 supplement as they aren't nearly as effective as the D3 form. However, the majority of vitamin D3 supplements aren't vegan because they're produced from lanolin, a waxy substance derived from sheep's wool, and that’s probably not good news for vegans..
Luckily, there are indeed a couple of vegan D3 supplements on the market. Instead of using lanolin, the D3 is derived from a plant called lichen.
And as always, when buying vegan supplements, you have to make sure that there are no animal products such as gelatin in the formula (which would be very strange to find in a D3 supplement based on lichen, but you can never be too sure).
Our #1 Recommended Vegan Vitamin D3 Supplement
Out of all these vitamin D3 products, our top recommendation would be Ora Organic.
It contains 2000 UI of D3 - which means this product gives you the recommended intake that you need even when you’re not lying on the beach all day or eating your bodyweight in tofu and mushrooms.
These pills are ideal for those with sensitive stomachs, and they’re equally suitable for both men and women.
So, if you’re looking to get the most vitamin D3 in your vegan diet, Ora Organic would be a smart choice.
What's next? If you're interested in other beneficial vegan supplements, check out this page.