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Best Vitamin D Supplements

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best vitamin D supplements

    Last Updated October 2018

    A walk outdoors on a sunny day isn’t just a good way to lift your spirits, it also increases your body’s stores of vitamin D, the vitamin your body produces from exposure to the sun. However, for a variety of reasons, many people are deficient in this crucial vitamin, which plays an important role in the strength and health of your bones and teeth, among other benefits.

    If you think you might not be getting enough vitamin D – or blood tests have revealed a deficiency – you’ve probably perused the many brands and formulas of vitamin D supplements on the market. With so many options to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming separating the marketing hype from reality.

    Luckily, at BestReviews, you can easily find the best products for you with our top recommendations and information-filled shopping guides. For everything you need to know about vitamin D supplements before you buy, just keep reading.

    Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the health and strength of your bones, teeth, and immune system.

    What is vitamin D and why do you need it?

    Vitamin D is one of the 13 essential vitamins. (The others are vitamins A, E, C, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12.) However, vitamin D is unique in that your body is able to produce it from sun exposure. You have to consume all of the other vitamins through food or supplements; your body cannot produce them on its own. Another unique trait of vitamin D is that before your body can use it, it must be converted into a hormone called calcitriol or activated vitamin D.

    Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, along with vitamins A, E, and K. These vitamins are absorbed better when consumed with high-fat foods, and they are stored in the liver and fatty tissue throughout the body.

    While it has several functions, the most important role of vitamin D is to help your body absorb calcium from food passing through your small intestine and then regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your bloodstream. The mineral calcium is crucial for strong, healthy bones, so without sufficient vitamin D, your bones will grow soft and weak. Vitamin D also helps your body maintain a strong immune system, and it plays a part in regulating cell growth and communication between cells.

    EXPERT TIP

    For best absorption, take your vitamin D supplement with a meal containing healthy fats.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

    While accepted lab values can differ, generally a blood test revealing 30 ng/mL or higher of vitamin D in the bloodstream is considered normal, 20.0 to 29.9 ng/mL is a vitamin D insufficiency, and less than 20 mg/mL is a vitamin D deficiency. Although there is some dispute among researchers about their validity, studies have shown that anywhere from 10% to more than 40% of the population have levels of vitamin D that are below normal.

    While anyone can be low in this crucial vitamin, some groups are likelier to be deficient in vitamin D.

    • Older adults: Mature skin does not synthesize the vitamin as effectively.

    • Darker skin tones: Higher levels of melanin in the skin make it less able to produce vitamin D.

    • Breastfeeding babies: Human milk does not have sufficient levels of vitamin D unless the mother takes a supplement.

    • Obese individuals: Excess fat binds to the vitamin and prevents it from circulating in the bloodstream.

    • IBS or other intestinal diseases: People who suffer from intestinal diseases are less able to metabolize fat, which is required to absorb sufficient vitamin D.

    • Lack of sun exposure: People who rarely go outside, or cover up heavily when they do so, do not get the sun exposure required to create vitamin D.

    • Location: Those who live far north or far south of the equator have less exposure to sunshine.
       

    The most serious conditions caused by insufficient vitamin D are rickets and osteomalacia. Both conditions cause softness of the bones. In growing children, rickets leads to severely bowed legs, while osteomalacia in adults makes fractures far likelier and bone healing much slower.

    Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency can include back pain or pain in the bones of the legs or ribs; slow healing of wounds, including after surgery; depression and fatigue; reduced bone density; hair loss; muscle pain; and increased susceptibility to colds, flu, and other infections.

    Long-term, severe vitamin D deficiency is linked to several serious health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cancer of the breasts, colon, and prostate.

    Your doctor can diagnose a vitamin D deficiency with a simple blood test.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Food sources of vitamin D

    Unlike the other essential vitamins, there are not many foods that supply a sufficient amount of vitamin D to meet the daily requirements.

    Along with sun exposure, however, you can increase your levels of vitamin D by eating food like cod liver oil; egg yolks; oily fish, including salmon, sardines, and herring; fortified milk and other dairy products; fortified orange juice; and mushrooms grown in ultraviolet light.

    You’ll absorb your vitamin D supplement best if you take it along with a meal containing healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, lean meat, or eggs.

    Two types of vitamin D

    There are two basic types of vitamin D used in supplements.

    Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is the form of vitamin D synthesized by plants, not animals. It’s generally obtained from irradiated mushrooms for use in supplements. You’ll often find less expensive vitamin D supplements containing the D2 form.

    Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the form of the vitamin your body naturally produces when exposed to sunshine. Vitamin D3 is generally obtained from lamb’s wool for use in supplements. While studies have shown that both D2 and D3 can raise blood levels of vitamin D to healthy levels, they have also shown that D3 does a far better job maintaining those levels than D2. For this reason, most nutritionists and other health experts recommend taking a vitamin D supplement containing D3.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Not many foods contain vitamin D, so if you are deficient, a supplement is the easiest way to increase your body’s stores of the vitamin.

    Choosing a vitamin D supplement

    When choosing a vitamin D supplement, stick with well-known, reputable brands. Off-brands might not actually contain the amount of vitamin D they claim, and some lower-quality vitamin D supplements have been tainted with lead.

    While there is some dispute, most nutrition specialists recommend D3 instead of D2 in vitamin D supplements.

    You’ll find vitamin D supplements in the form of tablets, softgels, drops, and gummies. All are effective, so go with your preference, but avoid gummies with an excess of sugar. If you take antacids, however, or other medications to reduce stomach acid, it’s possible that tablets won’t dissolve as effectively in your stomach, so choose a softgel or liquid vitamin D supplement instead.

    As vitamin D and vitamin K work together to regulate calcium in your bloodstream and bones, many nutritionists recommend taking a supplement that combines these two essential vitamins.

    It may be helpful to take a vitamin D supplement with added magnesium. Many people are deficient in this important mineral, which plays a role in metabolizing vitamin D and may help to prevent vitamin D deficiencies.

    Look for vitamin D supplements that are USP-certified. Although it’s no guarantee, this certification makes it far likelier that the product contains the amount of vitamin D it claims. You’ll generally see an indication of USP certification on the bottle.

    Most vitamin D3 found in supplements is sourced from wool, but there are vegan D3 supplements available if you prefer to avoid animal products.

    Prices for vitamin D supplements

    There’s no need to break the bank on a vitamin D supplement.

    Generally, vitamin D tablets are the least expensive. You’ll find many quality brands for less than $10 per bottle.

    You’ll pay a little more for vitamin D supplements that come in softgels and quite a bit more for gummies or vitamin D drops, which can cost more than $25 per bottle.

    Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin,” as exposure to sunlight is required for your skin to synthesize the vitamin.

    FAQ

    Q. How much vitamin D should I take?

    A. While the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) for people ages one through 70, many nutritionists feel that is not enough. Most supplements contain 1,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D, but few people need the highest dose on a regular basis. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, it’s best to stick with 1,000 or 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily, as some studies have shown that super-high doses of the vitamin can lead to kidney stones, nausea, vomiting, and weakness.

    Q. How much sun exposure do I need to produce enough vitamin D?

    A. For most people, sun exposure for five to 10 minutes, two or three times per week is enough to produce sufficient vitamin D. However, if you are middle-aged or older, have dark skin, are overweight, smoke, or live in a very northern or southern latitude, you’ll need to spend more time in the sun. For many people, though, a supplement is the best way to obtain enough vitamin D for a healthy immune system and strong bones.

    Q. Does taking a vitamin D supplement help treat depression?

    A. Several studies have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. However, if you have healthy levels of vitamin D already or you are only slightly low in this essential vitamin, a supplement is not likely to have a big impact on your mood.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Christine
      Christine
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Katherine
      Katherine
      Editor
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Michelle
      Michelle
      Writer

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