Update: July 2017.
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN IN AUG 2015 – MAY NO LONGER REFLECT MY CURRENT UPDATED VIEW REG. VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTATION.
To go straight to the list of vegan D3 supplements, click here.
This article assumes that you are somewhat educated about Vitamin D or know what you are doing. It will focus only on the sourcing of vegan vitamin D3 in the form of cholecalciferol, extracted from lichen (which is vegan). The article also assumes that you have figured what doses you are looking to use.
This this list intentionally ignored any formulation that aims to supplement other things than vitamin D3, so excluded are multivitamins, combos, complexes, bone health pills…
Vitamin D2 was intentionally excluded, although it was proven to increase serum levels of vitamin D, it does not exactly function like vitamin D3.
Keywords: lichen, vegan vitamin D, D3, vitashine, cholecalciferol, plant-based, hallal, kosher, not D2, not from mushrooms, not ergocalciferol
WARNINGS ON DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
1) Concerns with the safety of dietary supplements
Unfortunately, the free market of vitamins and supplements is poorly regulated, whether bought online, in your pharmacy, whether from reputable brands or reputable shops/pharmacies.
The dosage, content and ingredients (or contaminants) if they were measured may not be not be those on the label. They may if the manufacturer decides to impose on themselves a strict manufacturer process. But remember that by law, nothing or very few things forces them to.
If you can get a vegan prescription vitamin/mineral instead that is the absorbable safe/kind, always prefer that option over products available on the “free market”. This ensure that the vitamin/mineral is of pharmaceutical grade, precisely dosed, that the lab producing it is accountable, so in short the best quality possible. Depending on the country you live in, a check-up showing low levels may facilitate the process of obtaining prescription vitamin and minerals. Some non-conventional systems of medicine (i.e. naturopathic doctors) may be more willing to give a prescription for the pharmaceutical grade of vitamins/minerals.
2) Supplements & Testing: common sense and nerdier things
Different people, even of the same skin tone, synthesize vitamin D from the sun very differently. Moreover, different people also absorb nutrients and supplements very differently. Cherry on the cake, this even changes with age, health status, pregnancy etc.
All this makes it generally hard to throw a one-size-fits all regimen either for indirect sources like sun exposure or supplementation.
Instead of blindly prescribing everyone an intake objective, I believe serum vitamin D targets are much more sensible because that takes into account absorption issues.
Ensuring we have a healthy serum vitamin D level is asking oneself the question:
Do you I the vital stuff where it matters? Yes? or No?
That should always be the logic we use. We can only infer that much.
Hence why I insist that each person (even the healthiest diets/lifestyles) should get checked regularly for their nutritional status, to assess their deficiencies and needs, and do so until they find the dosage that works for them.
Avoid supplementing blindly and get checked to make sure your supplementation is not causing damage, doing what you are expecting/needing it to, and not too much so eventually. It is very common sense but few people do it.
Also be aware, that strangely, even with the best of technology in the wealthiest of countries, some minerals and vitamins status tests either do not exist, or their reliability is very questionable. When it is an issue, reliability depends primarily on technology/method used, direct/indirect method (looking the status or indicators of the status), on the brand/model of equipment used to process sample, on whether the populations chosen to define “normal ranges” represent you well, the kinetics of the markers (how fast the numbers they’re measuring are changing naturally in your body, i.e. things like vision and sugar levels change mildly to drastically within the day).
For vitamin D however, the serum levels of vitamin D levels are generally considered a robust method to assess vitamin D status, and the test is generally widely available.
3) Involving your doctor
You often hear “ask your doctor” about supplements. “Ask your doctor” has become so irrelevant that we are confused when to actually ask our doctors. Sadly few doctors are even educated about nutrition, let alone supplements. But there are cases where you would like to ask your doctor (even any doctor) if he/she sees anything wrong with supplementation, especially if you have health problems or taking medication, just had surgery, intending to take very high doses or supplement for a long time…that sort of thing.
Where to buy vegan/plant-based/halal/kosher Vitamin D3?
Safest bets: Certified vegan products
Safest sources in terms of certainty that it is vegan, brands directly certified by the Vegan Society :
- 200 UI/spray – approved by the Vegan Society
Vitashine, dedicated producer of lichen-based D3.
A few iherb products use the Vitashine D3 in their vitamin D3 products. They will be mentioned below in the iherb list.
- 400 UI/drop – approved by the Vegan Society
D.Plantes Vitamine D3++ Végétale, 20mL
FRENCH brand and website, ships internationally for a minimum of ~20€+ for furthest shipping addresses (simulated with New Zealand for 3 bottles).
Looks like D3 was historically the core of their manufacture and they then expended to sell other stuff.
- ~670 UI/spray – approved by the Vegan Society
Contains Stevia (harmful in “large” amounts)
One Nutrition® D3-Max, 30mL
IRISH brand with cheap/free delivery only in Ireland, 18€ flat within Europe, case by case out of Europe…).
Quite discreet about the vegan origins of the D3, while the two above are quite loud and clear about their research and the lichen source.
Products using Vitashine
Brands from iherb.com that are not vegan-certified but “using Vitashine”*, which is vegan-certified.
iherb.com ships worldwide, at relatively low shipping costs, and rather fast if all goes well.
- MRM Brand – uses Vitashine:
- Other brands that use Vitashine:
- 5000 UI
Country Life, Gluten Free, Vegan D3, 5000 IU, 60 Vegan Softgels
- 2500 UI
Doctor’s Best, Best Vegan D3, 2500 IU, 60 Veggie Caps
- 1000 UI
Nordic Naturals, Vitamin D3, Vegan, 1000 IU, 1 fl oz (30 ml)
- 1000UI (spray)
Garden of Life, Kind Organics, Vegan D3, Vanilla Spray, 2 oz (60 ml)
- (NEW) 100oUI (gums – contains some fats: coconut oil, a vitamin E, and a palmitate)
Vibrant Nutraceuticals, Vegan Vitamin D3 Gummies, 1000 IU, 60 Gummies
- (NEW) 1000 UI (contains added fats: last ingredient “vegetable lubricant (palm)”)
Natural Factors, Whole Earth & Sea, Vitamin D3, 1000 IU, 90 Vegetarian Capsules
- (NEW + CHEAPEST BY FAR) 1000 UI (contains added fats: magnesium stearate as second ingredient)
Jarrow Formulas, Vegan D3 , 1000 IU, 60 Veggie Caps
- 200 UI (spray)
Vibrant Nutraceuticals, Plant Based Vitamin D3, 0.65 fl oz (19.2 ml)
- 5000 UI
* The claim of “using Vitashine” is not a guarantee that the product entirely uses only that as a source of vitamin D3. Some brands go further and support this with “100% Vegan” claims or the likes.
More uncertain choices
More risky in terms of certitude that it is vegan/plant-derived/plant-based etc… :
- DO NOT BUY any brand that claims that it creates “D3 out of mushrooms” (highly likely D2) or that is not certified vegan.
- Unsure are: Any brand that does not contain Vitashine or is not vegan certified. Claims relying only on “Veggie capsules” or “suitable for all vegetarians” are generally utterly unreliable.
- Confusing is: SOLGAR BRAND
All “vegetarian” Solgar from the USA-Solgar – as opposed to the UK-Solgar which seperates vegan and vegetarian – are claimed to be vegan according to my last communication with their customer service. You are free to doubt this statement, I’m only sharing what they told me.
Solgar, Natural Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol), 5000 IU, 240 Veggie Caps
- 2200 UI:
Solgar, Natural Vitamin D3, 2200 IU, 100 Veggie Caps
- 600 UI:
Solgar, Natural Vitamin D3, 600 IU, 120 Veggie Caps
Here’s a copy of the email that I sent to the Solgar customer service. It’s really difficult to know when you should trust a customer service or sales person with technical aspects of the product. Perhaps too many factors of doubt to have full certitude that Solgar USA products are vegan. I leave it entirely up to your personal judgement.
(Email received on Aug 27th, 2015 from Solgar.com, the USA website)
I hope this article saved you time and was useful. If you have comments, or questions, please share below.
- Official view of the French Vegan Society (Société Végane) on Vitamin D (FR) (ENG)
- Linus Pauling Institute (OSU) summary on Vitamin D (archive)
- Dr Greger’s videos on vitamin D and (arguable) best practice recommendations for Vitamin D / sun exposure (archive)
- New Zealand Ministry of Health view on Vitamin D (archive)
- Highly selective information on Vitamin D (archive) from meta-analysis rejecting all studies and results that are not double-blind, placebo-controlled, and that meet very high research standard (archive). This view is highly risk-averse and does inevitably discard a host of very relevant research and observations that have not yet met this criteria. This work was published around 2006 as well and may be obsolete even with this criteria.