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7 Ways to Get Vitamin D from Non-Dairy Sources

Editor's Note: This archived article was first published in 2011 when vegan vitamin D supplements were not available. Natural Factors now offers Vegan SunVitamin Vitamin D3 sourced from lichenMykind Organics also offer a vegan D3 spray.

Deanna Lynn Sletten

Vitamin D plays an important role in our overall health yet most of us do not get a sufficient amount. If you are unable to eat dairy products or you follow a vegan or restricted diet, it can be challenging to get enough vitamin D through the foods you eat. Fortunately, there are a few foods that contain vitamin D as well as other sources of this essential vitamin. Here are seven ways to get enough vitamin D from non-dairy sources:

Sun Exposure

The number one way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure. The body can turn UVB sun rays that touch the skin into vitamin D. The amount of time spent in the sun to produce vitamin D varies depending upon a variety of factors which include how light to dark your skin is, the season, a clear or overcast sky, air pollution, your age and the time of day. Darker skinned individuals need to stay in the sun longer than fair skin individuals to produce the same amount of vitamin D. Most experts suggest spending 15 to 30 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen to produce enough vitamin D to meet the standard levels. Commercial tanning beds and Vitamin D lamps can also be used to produce vitamin D. However, too much sun exposure can potentially lead to skin cancer, so be careful not to spend more than the recommended time in the sun without sunscreen.


The easiest way to get enough vitamin D is through taking supplements. Many multivitamins for both children and adults supply a day's worth of vitamin D. If you don't take a daily multivitamin, you can buy vitamin D separately. The latest recommendations for intake of vitamin D set in 2010 are 600 IU per day for ages 1-70 and 800 IU per day for ages 71 and up. Infants 0-12 months should have 1,000 IU per day. These recommendations are for healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet. If severe vitamin D deficiency is suspected, see your doctor for guidelines.

Fortified Soy, Rice or Almond Milk

People who do not drink dairy products may sometimes substitute regular milk with soy, rice or almond milk. Fortified versions of these products contain added calcium and vitamin D. One cup of fortified soy or rice milk will give you 120 IU of vitamin D and one cup of almond milk gives you approximately 150 IU of vitamin D. Check the labels because each brand varies in amounts it adds. If you buy regular or 'raw' versions of these types of milk, they will not contain vitamin D.

Fortified Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals have become healthier over the past few years by dropping a lot of the sugar and adding vitamins and minerals. When buying a breakfast cereal, look for one that says it is fortified. This means they have added essential nutrients like vitamin D. Always read the label because fortified does not always mean the cereal has vitamin D. Examples of fortified cereals: General Mills Cheerios has 41 IU of added vitamin D per one cup serving while Kellogg's Raisin Bran has 40 IU per serving.

Fortified Orange Juice

Orange juice that has been fortified is another source of vitamin D. The typical fortified orange juice contains about 100 IU of vitamin D per eight ounce serving. Another benefit of fortified orange juice is it contains calcium. For people who do not drink milk, a good fortified orange juice can give them substantial amounts of their daily calcium and vitamin D. Shop around to find the orange juice with the least amount of sugar and the most vitamins and minerals.

Cold Water Fish

Some cold water fish are a natural source of vitamin D including salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Three ounces of salmon contains 350 IU of vitamin D and three ounces of tuna contains roughly 300 IU. Sardines also contain about 300 IU of vitamin D per three ounce servings and mackerel has 388 IU for the same size serving.


Mushrooms are the only plant food that naturally contains vitamin D. White button mushrooms contain about 32 IU per cup of vitamin D. Recently, companies have been increasing the amount of vitamin D in mushrooms by exposing them to UV light for several minutes. In fact, mushrooms exposed to UV light contain 700 percent more vitamin D than those that are not. UV exposure does not affect the levels of the other essential nutrients in mushrooms and they are safe to eat. Look for mushroom products that state they are enhanced with UV sunlight.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that everyone needs and finding food sources can be difficult. Fortunately, for people who live in areas where sunlight is low in the winter or for those who do not eat dairy, these sources of vitamin D are available to give you the adequate nutrition your body needs.

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2011. Last updated 2023. Published with permission.