Are All Vitamin D Vegan? Exploring the Vegan-Friendliness of Vitamin D Sources

When it comes to following a vegan lifestyle, it’s important to consider the sources of all essential nutrients, including vitamin D. While vitamin D is primarily obtained from sunlight exposure, it can also be found in certain foods and supplements. However, not all sources of vitamin D are vegan-friendly. In this article, we will explore the vegan status of various vitamin D sources and provide guidance for vegans seeking to maintain optimal levels of this crucial nutrient.

Sunlight Exposure: The Natural Source of Vitamin D

One of the most significant natural sources of vitamin D is sunlight exposure. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it synthesizes vitamin D with the help of cholesterol. This form of vitamin D, known as vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol, is highly bioavailable and easily utilized by our bodies.

Vitamin D2: The Plant-Based Alternative

Vitamin D2, also called ergocalciferol, is a plant-based form of vitamin D. It is produced when certain fungi and plants are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. While vitamin D2 can be synthesized by incorporating plant-based sources like mushrooms into your diet, it is important to note that these sources may not provide sufficient amounts of vitamin D to meet daily requirements. Vegans who rely solely on plant-based sources for their vitamin D intake may need to consider supplementation.

Fortified Foods and Supplements


  • Certain fortified plant-based milks (such as soy, almond, or oat milk) are often enriched with vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 derived from non-animal sources.
  • Some breakfast cereals, bread, and orange juice may also be fortified with vitamin D2 or vitamin D3, making them suitable options for vegans.


Vegan-friendly vitamin D supplements are widely available in the form of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 derived from lichen or other plant-based sources. These supplements are a reliable way for vegans to ensure they are meeting their recommended daily intake of vitamin D.

The Non-Vegan Source: Vitamin D3 from Animal Products

It is important for vegans to be aware that the primary non-vegan source of vitamin D3 is derived from animal products. Specifically, lanolin, a waxy substance found in sheep’s wool, is often used to produce vitamin D3 supplements. Additionally, vitamin D3 can be obtained from fish liver oil, which is clearly not suitable for vegan consumption.

To avoid non-vegan sources of vitamin D3, vegans should carefully read product labels or look for specifically labeled vegan-friendly vitamin D3 supplements derived from plant-based sources, such as lichen or certain types of algae.

The Bottom Line: Vegan-Friendly Vitamin D Sources Are Available

While not all sources of vitamin D are vegan, there are numerous vegan-friendly options available for individuals following a plant-based lifestyle. By incorporating sunlight exposure, consuming fortified foods, and using plant-based vitamin D supplements, vegans can ensure they are meeting their vitamin D requirements without compromising their ethical beliefs. It is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate vitamin D intake for your specific needs.