Is now a good time to invest in the best vitamin D supplement? Without a doubt. With the fall season in full swing, we are more likely to struggle with getting enough of this crucial nutrient. Our skin naturally synthesizes vitamin D in response to sunlight, which is why it is known as the sunshine vitamin. But when days get darker, our bodies may not be able to produce enough of it. Thankfully, supplements help us bridge this gap and avoid a potential vitamin D deficiency.
There are many ways in which vitamin D can keep our health in check. To start with, it is involved in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus metabolism. This in turn has a massive impact on bone health. In fact, vitamin D deficiency can lead to several bone diseases, such as rickets in children, and osteomalacia (bone pain) in adults. Getting enough of this vital nutrient helps reduce inflammation and boost our immune system, as well as improves sports performance and reduces risk of injury. Some studies (opens in new tab) even suggest that this nutrient can boost our mood.
According to the NIH (opens in new tab), the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D in the U.S. is 15 mcg (600 IU) for adults and children aged one and older, rising to 20 mcg (800 IU) for those over the age of 70. Although we can obtain this nutrient from diet, the list of vitamin D sources is relatively short, and mostly comes from animal-based products, mushrooms and fortified foods. Many may struggle with including enough of these foods in their diet, especially if they are vegan or vegetarian. People with certain digestive disorders are also at higher risk of developing deficiency, as well as older adults and people with dark skin.
So if you want to top up your intake of the sunshine vitamin, but aren’t sure which supplement may be worth investing in, keep reading. We’ve tried and tested multiple different vitamin D capsules, sprays, and chewables so you can find the best option for you.
Best vitamin D supplement
When it comes to the best vitamin D supplement, Solgar Vitamin D3 takes the ultimate crown. This product combines exceptional quality, ease of use, and an affordable price tag. In the world of dietary supplements, Solgar is one of the most well-known and universally respected brands. They pride themselves on manufacturing highly effective supplements based on years of thorough clinical research. And their Vitamin D3 is no different.
Each pack of Solgar Vitamin D supplement contains 50 small and easy-to-swallow capsules. One capsule provides a hefty dose of 2,200 IU of vitamin D3, which comes down to 275% of your daily value. As such, this product is a perfect choice for individuals with vitamin D deficiency, or those who do not obtain this nutrient from other supplements, such as multivitamins. The supplement is also free from sugar, salt, starch, gluten, wheat, dairy, soya, yeast, preservatives, artificial flavors or colorings, and is branded as vegetarian-friendly.
For $12.50 a pack, Solgar Vitamin D3 is a great value for money. The only issue may be its oil-free formula, meaning that for the best possible results, the capsules need to be taken with food.
The price of the best vitamin D supplement can be costly. But you don’t have to drain your wallet to ensure that you take good care of your health. If you are looking for a product that is efficient, yet affordable, try NOW Foods Chewable Vitamin D. There are several reasons why we consider it the best budget vitamin D supplement we’ve tested.
To start with, it is manufactured by NOW Foods, a well-established and universally acclaimed dietary supplement company that has been operating in the U.S. since 1968. This brand prides itself on ensuring great value without compromising on quality, and all of its products are backed by clinical research.
Each NOW Foods chewable contains 1,000 IU of vitamin D3, which comes down to 125% of your daily value. For those who need a higher dosage, the brand offers this product in 5,000 IU potency. NOW Foods Chewable Vitamin D is free from wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, fish, shellfish or tree nut ingredients, making it a great choice for people with allergies. However, as its vitamin D is sourced from lanolin (sheep’s wool), it is not suitable for vegans.
Any downsides? Although these chewables are perfect for those who struggle with swallowing pills, their taste may not be to everyone’s liking. But at around $7.54 for 180 tablets, NOW Foods Chewable Vitamin D is an absolute steal.
Liquid supplements are the perfect solution for those who struggle with swallowing large pills. Unlike tablets or capsules, they can also be easily mixed with food and beverages. If you are after a liquid vitamin D supplement that combines quality with efficiency, Thorne Vitamin D & K2 dropper is a perfect option. Led by extensive clinical research, Thorne is a champion for delivering clean, effective and thoroughly tested supplements. The best part? One unit of this premium product can last up to 20 months.
Each bottle contains 600 servings, with two drops providing 1,000 IU vitamin D3 and 200 mcg of vitamin K2 – that’s 125% and 167% of your recommended daily value, respectively. The solution is oil-based, which helps with absorption of the active ingredients, and does not need to be refrigerated. Thorne Vitamin D & K2 is also free from gluten, dairy, soy, artificial flavors and colorings. However, it is not suitable for vegans.
The company claims that a combination of vitamin D and vitamin K can provide greater health benefits than each offers separately. Indeed, according to a meta-analysis published in the Food & Function (opens in new tab) journal, it may be better at increasing bone mass density than vitamin D alone.
A downside is the dropper. Its design can feel fiddly and it definitely needs a bit of getting used to. The price ($23.40 per bottle) may also seem on the high side at first. But if you take into account how long this product lasts, Thorne Vitamin D & K2 is actually good value for money.
Some of the best vitamin D supplements come with added ingredients, such as other vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. However, Ancient Nutrition Vitamin D trumps them all with ease. It is rare to find a product that contains a host of extracts from herbs, medicinal mushrooms, and functional foods, as well as a high dose of vitamin D and vitamin K. The price of $29 a bottle may feel like a stretch, but Ancient Nutrition Vitamin D is definitely worth the expense. This supplement is a true nutritional powerhouse.
It is one of the strongest vitamin D supplements we tested, and by a sizable margin. Each of the 60 capsules contains 5,000 IU (125 mcg) of vitamin D, as well as 3,000 IU (90 mcg) of vitamin K, which is 625% and 75% of your daily recommended intake, respectively. It also contains the so-called ‘TCM (Traditional Chinese Method) blend’, which according to the brand, aims to support the body as a complete system rather than separate organs. Ancient Nutrition creates their products with the principles of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Herbalism in mind, and for many, that may be a questionable practice. However, modern scientific studies have shown that many of the ingredients in the TCM blend may have strong health-promoting properties.
For example, astragalus extract may help boost your immune system and regulate your metabolism, as stated in the Frontiers in Pharmacology (opens in new tab) journal. Schisandra Berry extract may have strong anti-cancer, anti-aging and anti-diabetic potential, as reported in the Nutrients (opens in new tab) journal.
Ancient Nutrition Vitamin D capsules are tasteless and easy to swallow, but some may find them relatively large in size. They are also free from gluten, nuts, and dairy. The only issue with this product is that it contains gelatin, which makes it not suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Most of the best vitamin D supplements are produced using animal-based sources, such as the skin of fatty fish or lanolin from sheep’s wool, because they contain high doses of vitamin D3. The research (opens in new tab) suggests this form is more effective than the plant-based vitamin D2. The only vegan source of vitamin D3 is lichen, an algae-fungal hybrid microorganism that grows on trees and stones. Good quality plant-based vitamin D supplements will have lichen listed on their packs, just like our personal favorite, Hum Nutrition’s Here Comes The Sun.
Hum Nutrition is widely known for its high quality products validated through extensive clinical research. Their brightly-colored supplements do not contain any GMOs or artificial sweeteners or colorants, and are free from wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts.
Each pack of Hum Nutrition Here Comes The Sun contains 30 soft and easy-to-swallow softgel capsules. One capsule provides 2,000 IU of vitamin D3, which comes down to 250% of your daily value, and a dose of extra virgin olive oil for better absorption.
Mind you, since it is quite a high dose, you may want to be careful if you’re taking them in combination with a standard multivitamin. Vitamin D intake above the limit of 4,000 IU per day may be harmful.
Toddlers may not be keen on taking the best vitamin D supplements. Capsules may be too large for them, they may not like the taste, and they may find the whole thing off putting. However, disguising supplements as sweet chewables will help your children look forward to their daily dose of vitamins. If you are looking for a gummy multivitamin that provides a host of essential nutrients, as well as a good amount of vitamin D, look no further than SmartyPants Kids Formula Daily Gummy Multivitamin.
SmartyPants Kids Formula contains 120 chewables, and since the recommended dose is four gummies a day, one pack provides a month's supply. One dose provides 800 IU of vitamin D3, which amounts to 130% of the daily value, as well as omega-3 fatty acids and a range of other essential micronutrients. Specifically designed to support your child’s bone and immune health, this supplement is also exceptionally tasty. What’s more, it is free of artificial sweeteners, synthetic flavors, GMOs and food allergens. SmartyPants chewables do not need to be refrigerated, and can be taken with or without food.
On the other hand, costing almost $18 per pack, this dietary supplement may not be particularly budget-friendly. And since it contains fish oils, SmartyPants Kids Formula Daily Gummy Multivitamin is not suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Vitamin D3 vs D2
Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms: D2, known as ergocalciferol, and D3, known as cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is found largely in animal-based foods, such as oily fish, eggs and butter. The only plant that contains this form is lichen, an algae-fungal hybrid microorganism that grows on trees and stones. Vitamin D2, on the other hand, comes mostly from dietary supplements, fortified foods, and mushrooms grown in UV light. Both of these chemical compounds contribute to your daily vitamin D requirements, but they may have a slightly different effect on our bodies.
According to the researchers from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (opens in new tab), vitamin D3 supplements are generally better than the ones with vitamin D2 at raising the blood serum vitamin D levels. As such, products containing cholecalciferol may be more cost-effective.
How much vitamin D should I take?
Vitamin D content and Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) reference points are usually listed in both micrograms (mcg) and international units (IU). One microgram of this nutrient is equal to 40 IU.
The National Institutes of Health (opens in new tab) recommends an average daily intake of 400–800 IU (10–20 micrograms) of vitamin D. It also advises not to exceed the 4000 IU (100 micrograms) level, because such a high dosage may pose a risk to your health.
There are certain population groups that could benefit from stronger vitamin D supplements. These include older adults and individuals with darker skin tones, as mentioned in The Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab). Those who are overweight and obese also tend to be more deficient in this nutrient, as described in the European Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab). Researchers from the PLoS One (opens in new tab) propose that vitamin D supplementation should be two to three times higher for obese individuals and 1.5 times higher for those considered overweight.
Which vitamin D supplement is best?
Dietary supplements are not as tightly regulated as pharmaceuticals, so it may be tricky to know if you are buying a good one. So how to recognize a good quality product?
The best vitamin D supplements adhere to all relevant Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, including allowable health claims and labeling requirements. They are manufactured in facilities that follow current good manufacturing practices (CGMPs). To ensure that a supplement is sold by a reputable company that follows ethical, legal, and industry best standards, check whether it has any third-party certifications. These may include approvals from NSF, Consumer Lab and United States Pharmacopeial Convention.
Vitamin D supplements come in many different forms, including chewable tablets, liquids, and sprays, making it easy to pick a product that suits your preferences and medical needs. For example, fortified gummies may be more appealing to fussy children, while a liquid or a spray may be easier to take for people with certain health conditions. It is also worth checking whether your vitamin D supplement contains oils. Since this nutrient dissolves in fats, an oil-based formula could help improve its absorption in your digestive tract.
How do we test vitamin D supplements at Live Science?
All of the supplements in this guide have been tried and tested by the Live Science team. Supplements will affect everyone slightly differently, so we review our products based on what they contain and what you might need to be aware of before taking them. We focus on the following areas in particular:
We note exactly what ingredients are in a vitamin D supplement. We then compare this to your recommended daily value so you can decipher if you’ll get enough cholecalciferol from these supplements.
In all of our reviews, we note how much of each supplement you are required to take and how often.
We recognise that different people have different needs. We make clear if a vitamin D supplement is suitable for a particular diet (such as vegan or gluten-free). We also note if it is GMO-friendly or suitable for people with particular allergies.
Easiness to swallow & taste
Because we test every supplement ourselves, we make sure to disclose whether the supplements are easy to swallow. While taste is subjective, we do make note of this too, including any unpleasant aftertastes.
When we test vitamin D supplements, we note if one thing makes it stand out over the other. This could be the bioavailability of the ingredient or the manufacturing methods.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.