The consensus amongst the scientific and medical communities is that if you’re going to supplement with vitamin D, make it vitamin D3.
Something vegans need to consider, though: Most vitamin D3 supplements are made from lanolin, which is a yellow fat that comes from sheep’s wool that is UV irradiated to create a concentrated D3 (aka. cholecalciferol) source. While it’s certainly an A-OK source for vitamin D3, it’s obviously not vegan.
Luckily, there are two plant-based sources of vitamin D3 available in supplements these days: algae and lichen.
The downside to lichen is that it takes years to grow and is removed from its natural ecosystem in order to be utilized for supplements, according to Ferira. Plus, the concentration of D3 lichen offers depends on the type and when it’s harvested—and the lichen itself is susceptible to environmental contaminants.
Given that, “organic algal-sourced vitamin D3 is the cream of the crop for vitamin D,” says Ferira. Algae sources of D3 (such as VegD3®, the specific D3 source used in mbg’s vitamin D3 potency+) can be produced sustainably without any impact on the local environment, a perk for many conscious consumers.
Ultimately, though, lichen- and algal-sourced vitamin D3 can be packaged up in vegan capsules or tablets (for tablets, Ferira says these can sometimes involve unsavory “other ingredients”) to create a fully vegan product. (They’re few and far between, but they do exist.)
Still, there are caveats to keep in mind here—and caveats significant enough that they dissuaded mbg from packaging up our unique vitamin D3 potency+ formula in a fully plant-based option. “We didn’t encapsulate in a vegan gelcap because after heavily researching them, we found their porosity [read: pores or small holes] leads to leaks, reduced stability, increased oxidation, and rancidity of ingredients, which was unacceptable for us and our quality standards,” explains Ferira.
She goes on to say that, “because we include three organic virgin oils in our formula to promote absorption, tablets or capsules weren’t an option, because capsules are only useful when all your ingredients are in powder format.” So while the gelatin gelcap (albeit, from high-quality bovine gelatin) means that vitamin D3 potency+ as a whole isn’t vegan, it was a necessary move that ensured the formula could include both an organic, sustainable plant-derived vitamin D3 source and the organic virgin oils needed to ensure proper absorption, plus the incremental benefit of healthy omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids.*
Ultimately, finding a vegan vitamin D3 supplement requires doing your homework to ensure you’re aligned with the process through which that D3 is produced—and getting mighty comfortable reading product packaging and ingredient lists.