Interview with Brenda Davis, RD: Vitamin D Foods, Is Vegan Vitamin D2 Sufficient?

Part 3 - Myths About Vitamin D versus D2, Vitamin D Foods

I am interested in Vitamin D foods because I know I don't get enough sunshine for my body to produce Vitamin D.
As many of you, I live in the country where winter is long. I work at the office and drive everywhere most of the times, with the exception of annual trip to the sunny destinations ( where I overdose on my Vitamin D once a year).

So I always bought fortified soymilk and almond milk, hoping to get my Vitamin D from these foods. And I was utterly confused by the press where doctors were saying that there were different forms of Vitamin D and that the vegan form was not sufficient.
The third (and last) part of interview with Brenda Davis, RD adresses the Vitamin D myth. Brenda is a leader in the field of nutrition. Her books on vegetarian and vegan nutrition, Becoming Vegan and Becoming Vegetarian, have achived a bestseller status on Amazon. This was amazing to see because only 5% of the US population are vegetarians or vegans, meaning her books are popular way beyond this group.

Brenda Davis

What Vitamin should I get, D or D2?

Some people believe that the vegan version of vitamin D (D2 or ergocalciferol) is not a useful form of the vitamin and people need the animal form (vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol).

An important study has provided clear evidence that this is not the case. Dr. Michael Holick provided subjects either 1000 IU vitamin D2, 1000 IU vitamin D3, 500 IU of each D2 and D3 or a placebo. There was absolutely no difference in the effectiveness of vitamin D2 or D3 in raising serum Vitamin D levels. The reason that experts believed D2 to be less effective is that most of the previous studies used one large bolus of vitamin D instead of smaller amounts that are more typical of what people actually consume in supplement form.

What health issues can lack of Vitamin D cause?

People used to believe that the only adverse health consequence from insufficient vitamin D was weakened bones.

Now we know that vitamin D affects the immune system, autoimmune diseases, several cancers, and increases risk for tuberculosis and depression. It is estimated approximately 16 – 75 percent of people are actually Vitamin D deficient.

What are the good Vitamin D sources?

Where do you get vitamin D? People can get sufficient vitamin D from sunshine, fortified foods or supplements.

From sunshine, you need at least 15 to 30 minutes a day of warm summer sun if you have lighter skin. If you have darker skin, you could need up to 3 hours. On cold sunny days, you don’t make Vitamin D - from October through March if you live north of the 40th N latitude or below the 40th S latitude.

As for food, few plants are reliable sources. Mushrooms may have vitamin D if they are grown in sunshine, and there are companies beginning to produce high vitamin D mushrooms. Some fortified foods, such as fortified non-dairy milk, have some Vitamin D as well.

Of course, supplements are a good option.

The RDA is 600 IU a day (800 IU for those over 70 years). Many experts suggest 1000 IU a day. It’s good to be tested and know your vitamin D status. You can use a combination of summer sun, fortified foods and supplements to meet your needs. If relying on sun exposure, be sure to be sensible about exposure so as not to elevate risk for skin cancer.

Brenda Davis, RD, is a leader in her field and an internationally acclaimed speaker. She is co-author of seven books: Becoming Raw, Becoming Vegan, Becoming Vegetarian, The New Becoming Vegetarian, The Raw Food Revolution Diet, Defeating Diabetes and Dairy-free and Delicious. Brenda is the lead dietitian in a diabetes intervention project in Majuro, Marshall Islands. She is a past chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association. Brenda is currently working on an updated and expanded Becoming Vegan. She is married to Paul Davis, has two adult children, Leena and Cory, and lives in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Visit Brenda's website, for in-depth unbiased information about vegan and vegetarian nutrition.


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