There are two forms of vitamin D that are commonly found as a supplement or in foods, vitamin D2, also known as aergocalciferol, and vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol. You’re your body is exposed to direct sunlight, your body synthesizes vitamin D, but vitamin D is also available in limited quantities in some vegetarian-friendly foods. If you are a pesco-vegetarian, also known as a pescatarian, or if you are an ovo-lacto vegetarian, you can get vitamin D from fatty fish, dairy products, and eggs, respectively. For vegans, soy products are frequently fortified with vitamin D.
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Recommended Daily Intake
The daily recommended intake for vitamin D for adults and children -- male and female -- is 600 international units per day. If you are over 70 years old, it is recommended that you get 800 international units per day. For infants, the daily recommended amount is 400 international units, and the upper limit for adult ingestion is 4,000 international units. It is not recommended that you ingest more than this amount, and prolonged over-consumption could lead to vitamin D toxicity, because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body stores.
Dairy Products and Eggs for Ovo-lacto Vegetarians
In the U.S., most liquid cow's milk is fortified with vitamin D, and eggs contain vitamin D naturally. A large, raw, whole egg contains over 17 IU of vitamin D, which is 4 percent of the recommended daily amount for adults. Although it can be difficult to get sufficient dietary vitamin D, each cup of milk contains about 25 percent of the recommended daily amount, so drinking milk every day helps.
Soy Products for Vegans
Fortified soy products are rich sources of dietary vitamin D. A 1-cup serving of soy milk contains 30 percent of the daily recommended intake, with almost 119 international units of vitamin D per serving. However, not all soy products are vitamin D fortified, so you must read the label. Fortified almond milk is a good source of vitamin D, too.
Fatty Fish for Pescatarians
If you are a pescatarian and you eat fish but no other meat, then you are in luck, because fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines, are a rich source of vitamin D. A 3-ounce serving of sardines, contains all the vitamin D you need in a day. You can also get vitamin D from oysters.
Direct Sun Exposure
Your body can synthesize vitamin D when you expose your skin to direct sunlight. Ten to 15 minutes of direct sun exposure, with no sunscreen, about three times a week is usually enough. However, this will change, depending on the season and your geographical location. As well, those with darker skin will require more sun exposure, as darker skin is less efficient with vitamin D production. Even if you are unable to get enough sun exposure each week, taking care to eat vitamin D-fortified foods as a supplement to your sun exposure will ensure that you maintain healthy vitamin D levels.