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Vitamin D is key to staying healthy. Your body needs vitamin D for bone maintenance, muscle regulation, cognitive function, and more. New studies even link vitamin D levels to COVID-19 prevention and recovery.
The so-called “sunshine vitamin” is made in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. And we get a small amount from food sources such as fatty fish and fortified milk. Unfortunately, it’s tough to get enough vitamin D. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), about half of all Americans are vitamin D deficient.
Dietary supplements are helpful for topping up your body’s stores, but it can be tricky to find the right vitamin D supplement for your lifestyle. Plus, you want to make sure the dose is right (which, for most healthy adults, means around 1,000 International Units (IU) per day). With so many options available, it can be a struggle to figure out which supplement is right for you. To help make the process of choosing easier, here are our picks for the best vitamin D supplements in every category.
Our Picks for the Best Vitamin D supplements:
- Best multivitamin with D: Ritual
- Best high dose: Pure Encapsulations D3 5000 IU
- Best gummies: Nordic Naturals Zero Sugar Vitamin D3 Gummies 1,000 IU
- Best drops: Thorne Vitamin D/K2
- Best formula with liposomes: Designs for Health Liposomal D Supreme
- Best vegan: Persona Vitamin D – Vegan – 1000 IU
- Best for kids: Carlson Labs Kid’s Super Daily D3 + K2
- Best pill: MegaFood Vitamin D3 1000 IU Tablet
- Best chewable: Nature Made Vitamin D3 1000 IU Chewable Tablets
If you’re worried about more than just your vitamin D intake, you might consider a multivitamin with D. Ritual designs multivitamins for your body’s needs at different life stages, so options range from kids to adults over 50. And they address the different needs of men and women. Each multivitamin contains 50mcg (2000 IU) of vitamin D.
Ritual prides itself on using the best sustainably sourced ingredients. Ritual uses Vitashine, a certified vegan D3 ingredient made from sustainably-sourced lichen in the UK. One of the best things about Ritual is the mint packet they put in each bottle to give the vitamins a minty smell and taste.
Pure Encapsulations is a top-notch supplement with highly concentrated vitamin D3. You’re getting one of the highest doses currently available on the market — 10,000 IU per soft gel capsule, that’s double what you’d get from many other brands.
The natural form of cholecalciferol (the technical name for vitamin D3) in Pure Encapsulations D3 125 mcg (5,000 IU) is derived from lanolin, or sheep’s wool wax. Cholecalciferol formulations are well-absorbed in the small intestine. This is where the body absorbs many nutrients from the foods you eat.
Pure Encapsulations D3 uses soy oil as an emulsifier instead of soy lecithin (which can be contaminated with the toxic solvent hexane) or corn oil (a common allergen). Soy oil also has omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats the body cannot make on its own. Therefore, it is important to get them from your diet.
This supplement is also non-GMO and free of gluten and dairy products - something that many people look for when choosing their supplements. For those seeking a high dose of vitamin D, the Pure Encapsulations brand is a good choice for supplementing your nutrition.
If you are looking for a gummy supplement, Nordic Naturals Zero Sugar Vitamin D3 gummies can give your body a vitamin boost. The gummies are gelatin-free, vegetarian and non-GMO as well. So Nordic Naturals D3 vitamins are all-natural. And they come in one flavor, wild berry, sweetened with a sour berry coating made from organic sucrose and fumaric acid.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition, an independent third-party laboratory, tests Nordic Naturals supplements for toxins and heavy metals. When you purchase a bottle of Nordic Naturals, you can enter the lot number from your bottle on their website to view a Certificate of Analysis report. The report shows the potency, purity, and freshness details of each bottle. This level of transparency shows the company’s commitment to high standards.
The Nordic Naturals gummy is the best option because it gives you the potent, pure and fresh dose of the D3 want, without artificial flavors or additives you don’t want.
Vitamin D drops are another convenient way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. They’re great for the elderly or children with chewing or swallowing problems. Thorne’s supplement drops can also be added to food or mixed into beverages. Thorne’s D/K2 product is all-natural, gluten-free, and dairy-free.
What makes these drops unique is they feature a powerful combination formula of liquid cholecalciferol (D3) and menatetrenone (K2). Vitamin D3 balances calcium levels, while vitamin K sends calcium to the bones and away from soft tissues. The D/K2 combo is a one-two punch for teeth and bone health.
Another benefit of this vitamin is that the Thorne’s Vitamin D/ K2 Liquid provides nutritional support for oncology patients. Research has also shown that the synergistic effect of Vitamin D and K2 may slow cancer progression and reduce hypercalcemia.
However, it may not be the best choice for everyone. Because this drop has vitamin K, it may interact with some medications, including blood thinners like warfarin or anticonvulsants like phenytoin. Talk with your doctor about taking this supplement if you take other medications.
Two drops of Thorne D/K2 have 12.5 mcg or 500 IU of vitamin D. The average adult needs between 600 and 800 IU daily. The product is labeled for use 1–3 daily, for 500–1500 IU of supplementation each day.
Another enjoyable way to take your vitamins is the Designs for Health Liposomal D Supreme spray form.
Liposomal D Supreme with K provides a daily dose of vitamins D3, K1, and K2. Since vitamin K affects certain medications, you should discuss this supplement with your pharmacist or healthcare provider before starting.
Another cool part of this formula is the delivery system. Just pump one spritz of the natural citrus flavored vitamin solution into your mouth and hold it for about 30 seconds before swallowing.
The Designs for Health formula also gives users the added benefit of magnesium and potassium, which encourage optimal calcium absorption in the body–and bone health. This product is non-GMO, gluten-free and dairy-free.
Vegans and vegetarians may be at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency than those who consume animal products. Persona’s vitamin D vegan – 1000, is great for people who eat a plant-based diet.
It is free from major food allergens, including corn, nuts, gluten, wheat and soy. The company makes the vitamins in the US, from ingredients researched by their Medical Advisory Board and professional nutritionists.
The Persona model requires customers to complete an online assessment, which creates a tailored vitamin plan and signs them up for a subscription program. Customers can also chat online with dietitians about their vitamins and recommendations.
Thanks to advancements in tech and nutrition, Persona’s personalized vitamin allows users to customize their capsules by adding additional supplements or ingredients to help with ailments such as stress, low energy, or trouble sleeping. Although research has not yet proven that a personalized solution is better than an off-the-shelf option, users appreciate a product tailored to their unique needs.
A note on personalized vitamins: Persona Nutrition offers customized supplement recommendations made for you based on the results of a health questionnaire. A questionnaire cannot replace the guidance of a qualified health professional. Talk with a healthcare professional before taking any new supplements.
If you have a child who needs more vitamin D, the Carlson Labs Kid’s Super Daily D3 + K2 is an excellent option. A single drop contains 25 mcg or 1000 IU of potent vitamin D3 as cholecalciferol and vitamin K2 from chickpeas. This supplement gives kids support for strong teeth, bones, and immune systems.
An FDA-registered laboratory tests all Carlson products for potency and quality. This is important because you want to know that what you’re taking has been checked for safety, especially when it’s intended for a child. Carlson’s Kid’s Super Daily D3 + K2 is non-GMO, dairy-free, and vegetarian.
Children four years and older only need one concentrated oil drop daily. And parents should check with their healthcare provider for use in those younger than four years old. The bottle contains about 360 drops, so the supply should last for almost a year. The suspension is unflavored, so parents can add this supplement to juice or smoothies or put it on food. These options make it easy to get your kids their daily dose of vitamin D with no fuss or mess.
If you’re looking for a pill that won’t upset your stomach, try MegaFood vitamins. MegaFood’s Vitamin D3’s label states that this supplement can be taken anytime – even on an empty stomach. This may be due to the fact that MegaFood supplements are made from a proprietary Nourishing Food & Herb Blend that contains organic brown rice, parsley leaf and beetroot. Whole grains and leafy greens as well as high-fiber foods are known to improve digestion.These natural grains and vegetables also add natural phytonutrients and extra nourishment with each dose.
MegaFood D3 tablets are great because they also deliver 25 mcg (1000 IU) of fermented cholecalciferol per serving. Fermented products have been naturally broken down by alcohols, acids or microorganisms like yeasts. This makes them easier to digest because they are already in a simpler form as a result of the fermentation process. Other tablets or pills that do not contain fermented forms of the vitamin will not be as quickly digested and absorbed into the body.
Through third-party testing, MegaFood ensures that its organic products are non-GMO and certified glyphosate residue-free and kosher. Megafood tablets are also vegetarian and free of gluten, dairy and soy. Some of the organizations that certify MegaFood vitamins include: the USDA, the Non-GMO Project and the Detox Project.
Nature Made Vitamin D3 Chewable is the best for a convenient, tasty tab that will go down easier than a pill. Multiple online reviewers say this vitamin has a pleasant grape smell and flavor that are easy on the taste buds. Each tab contains 25 mcg or 1,000 IU of vitamin D3.
Nature Made tablets are made with non-GMO ingredients, and they are free from major food allergens, including gluten, dairy, shellfish and soy. And this product is sugar-free and all-natural. There are no artificial ingredients in these chewables.
What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D supplementation can increase muscle strength, and higher vitamin D levels are associated with reduced injury and improved sports performance.
Scientists have found Vitamin D receptors on most immune cells. Studies show that populations with greater exposure to direct sunlight have stronger immune responses.
Vitamin D affects many nervous system functions, including conduction, regulation, and the production of chemical messengers. Studies also show that the micronutrient protects the nervous system by preventing oxidative damage to nervous tissue.
Areas of the brain involved in thinking and memory have vitamin D receptors, suggesting that we need this nutrient for optimal brain function. And new clinical trials show a link between higher vitamin D levels and positive mood and mental performance.
It only takes a small amount of this micronutrient, only 15 micrograms to be exact, to make a difference in your overall health.
How much vitamin D do I need?
Daily requirements depend on your age. We measure vitamin D dosage in micrograms (mcg) or International Units (IU).
Intake recommendations for vitamin D are developed by expert committees in the National Institute of Medicine. These reference ranges are used as benchmarks to plan and assess nutrient intakes for healthy people.
The Recommended Daily Allowance, or RDA, is the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) of healthy individuals. According to the National Institutes of Health, the RDA for vitamin D is:
- Infants (birth to 12 months): 10 mcg or 400 IU
- Children and adults: 15 mcg or 600 IU
- Seniors over age 71: 20 mcg or 800 IU
The upper limit for daily intake is around 4,000 IU. Too much vitamin D may cause excess calcium build-up in the blood. Symptoms of calcium buildup include:
- Muscle cramps
- Bone pain
Over time, too much blood calcium, known as hypercalcemia, can lead to weakened bones, kidney stones, or high blood pressure.
Your needs may change seasonally. During the winter months your vitamin D needs are higher for a few reasons. First, the days are shorter so there is less sunshine. Also, when most people go outdoors in the winter they wear hats, coats, and gloves, which restrict sunlight from penetrating the skin.
To prevent vitamin D deficiency, the average person must spend about 20 minutes in the sunshine with 40% of the skin exposed each day.
How do I get vitamin D?
You can get vitamin D in three ways: from sun exposure, eating foods containing vitamin D or taking a supplement.
Vitamin D is naturally produced in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight — it’s why people sometimes call it the “sunshine vitamin.” Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun transform a provitamin called 7-dehydrocholesterol, which is found in the epidermis, into pre-vitamin D3. The pre-vitamin then turns into cholecalciferol (D3). About 50-90% of the body’s vitamin D comes from sun exposure. The rest comes from diet.
The body can also absorb vitamin D from the foods we eat. The best dietary sources are fatty fish, fortified milk and breakfast cereals. Three ounces of cooked salmon contain 309 IU of vitamin D. One cup of fortified whole milk contains 98 IU.
People who don’t get enough sunlight or eat nutrient-rich foods may need a vitamin D3 supplement. It’s best to talk to your healthcare provider to determine your specific needs.
Who needs vitamin D?
Half of all Americans are deficient in vitamin D. New research shows correlations between low vitamin D levels and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and depression. You can have your blood levels checked by a doctor to see if your vitamin D level is low. If you’re low in this basic nutrient, try adding a vitamin D3 supplement to your day.
Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include:
- Age over age 65
- Low sun exposure (less than 20–30 mins daily)
- Ethnicities with dark skin tones
- Living in places with few sunny days
- Poor dietary intake or absorption (gastric bypass, celiac disease)
- Chronic kidney or liver diseases
Certain medicines can also increase your risk for vitamin D deficiency. Drugs that work in the liver can cause vitamin D to break down in the body. Examples include some seizure medications, steroids, and antibiotics. It’s best to talk to your healthcare provider about potential drug interactions when starting any medication or supplement.
Who should avoid vitamin D?
While vitamins are safe for most people, certain groups should talk to their doctor before starting a new regimen.
- Pregnant women
- Adults with chronic kidney disease
- Those with high calcium levels or taking high-doses of calcium
High doses of Vitamin D may elevate blood calcium levels. This may increase the risk of side effects for some individuals.
You should talk to your doctor before starting a vitamin routine. Your levels of vitamin D should be monitored over time to see if the vitamin is working for you.
What to look for in vitamin D?
It’s common to have questions about what to look for in vitamin D supplements. Here are a few factors to consider when shopping around.
Vitamin D comes in two types:
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is made by plants or fungi, like mushrooms, when they are exposed to UVB rays.
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) mainly comes from animal sources like lanolin (a waxy protective layer in sheep’s wool).
Safety and quality
Read product ingredients. Avoid supplements with added sugars, filler ingredients, artificial colors or flavors.
Products tested and verified by independent third parties may display seals of approval. You can trust these products over the manufacturer’s claims. In the US, the certifying organizations are ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, and the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP).
Choose an easy-to-take form. Some brands have better smells and tastes. Look for a vitamin that will fit your diet or lifestyle. Whether you want vegan, kosher, organic, or allergen-free, find a selection to meet your needs.
A month’s supply of vitamin D can range from $2–35. Higher-quality supplements usually cost more because they are more expensive to produce.
Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.