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Most people can get enough vitamin D from sunlight and food. However, some people may need a supplement to get enough of this nutrient.

Woman taking vitamin D supplement with waterShare on Pinterest
Photo credit to LaylaBird/Getty Images

This article looks at how much vitamin D people need by age, who may need a supplement, and some options to consider. It also discusses how to get more vitamin D naturally.

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Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for healthy bones, immune function, and cell growth.

Some people are more at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), these groups can include:

  • Infants drinking breast milk: This does not contain much vitamin D. The NIH reports that exclusively and partially breastfed infants receive 10 micrograms (mcg), or 400 international units (IU), of vitamin D per day until weaning.
  • People who get less exposure to sunlight: People who are housebound, work night shifts, or cover their skin for religious reasons may not get the sun exposure that the body needs to create enough vitamin D. People who live in colder climates may also get less sunlight exposure during the winter months.
  • Older adults: Older adults who spend a lot of time indoors may be at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. According to the NIH, in the United States, around half of older adults with hip fractures may have inadequate vitamin D levels. Also, the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D declines with age.
  • People with dark skin: Dark skin tones contain more melanin, which can reduce the amount of vitamin D that the skin makes. People with darker skin tones generate vitamin D from the sun more slowly than people with lighter skin. However, it is unclear whether this has any health consequences. In fact, a 2018 expert panel of researchers suggest that Black people have fewer bone fractures and lower rates of osteoporosis than white people, due to other genetic factors, and so may not require vitamin D supplementation for bone health.
  • People with obesity: Having a body mass index of 30 or over is associated with lower vitamin D levels, according to the NIH. People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery may also need more vitamin D.
  • People with malabsorption: Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease affect the gut’s ability to absorb vitamin D. And people with such conditions may not eat foods that contain vitamin D due to dietary restrictions.

If a person is concerned that they might not be getting enough vitamin D, a doctor can check for a deficiency via a blood test.

Vitamin D deficiencies can cause conditions that affect the bones, such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis. This is because a deficiency reduces calcium absorption.

A deficiency in vitamin D can also lead to rickets, a childhood condition that causes the bones to be softer and more prone to fracture. In the United States, most companies fortify milk with vitamin D, which has reduced the prevalence of rickets.

Learn more about vitamin D deficiency.

A person’s daily requirement of vitamin D depends on their age, whether they are pregnant, and whether they have any underlying medical conditions.

The NIH provides these general guidelines:

AgeDaily amount of vitamin D required
0–12 months10 mcg (400 IU)
1–18 years15 mcg (600 IU)
19–70 years15 mcg (600 IU)
70 years and over20 mcg (800 IU)

People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should aim to get 15 mcg (600 IU) of vitamin D per day.

Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D requirements by having safe exposure to sunlight. According to the NIH, spending 5–30 minutes in the sun, with the face, arms, legs, or back exposed, at least twice a week is usually enough.

However, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends getting vitamin D through food sources and supplements, rather than through sun exposure, to limit the risk of developing skin cancer.

Learn more about vitamin D levels here.

For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.

In supplements, two forms of vitamin D are available: D2, which is called ergocalciferol, and D3, which is called cholecalciferol. Both are effective, but D3 seems to be more effective at higher dosages.

Manufacturers use yeast to make D2, and they can produce D3 from several sources, including:

  • lanolin, which comes from sheep’s wool
  • fish oils, such as cod liver oil
  • algae oil, which is suitable for people with vegan diets

Vitamin D supplements are available as chewable tablets, liquids, and sprays, among other forms.

The best type of supplement may depend on preferences and medical needs. For example, a liquid or spray may be easier to take than a pill.

Learn more about the differences between vitamins D2 and D3 here.

How we choose products

Medical News Today chooses products that fit the following criteria:

  • Safety: The products contain safe doses of vitamin D for adults.
  • Manufacturing process: The companies adhere to the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Quality: The products have third-party certification for safety and quality.
  • Suitability: The products are suitable for most people’s dietary requirements, including those with vegan diets.
  • Ordering process: Various products are available by subscription or as one-off purchases.

Many vitamin D supplements are on the market. The following are examples of those available online.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented here is purely research-based and was correct at the time of publication.

Care/of The Sunny D3

Best sustainably sourced vitamin

Care/of, a vitamin subscription service, sells capsules that each contain 25 mcg (1,000 IU) of vitamin D3, in the form of cholecalciferol.

The vitamin is fermented with yeast and other foods to help with absorption, and it is vegetarian and gluten-free.

Care/of says that all its products are sustainably sourced from farms and undergo testing to ensure high quality. The company also claims to use clean production processes, such as using water instead of harsher chemicals, to prepare herbal supplements.

It recommends taking 1 capsule a day with a meal, such as lunch or dinner.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product are:

  • its sustainably sourced ingredients
  • the clean production processes
  • the company’s testing for safety

However, this product is only available by subscription, not as a one-off purchase.

Price: At the time of publishing, Care/of The Sunny D3 cost $7 per month.

Ritual Essential for Women 18+

Best multivitamin

Ritual is a vitamin subscription service. It sells products with simple, traceable ingredients, including this multivitamin designed for women aged 18 and over.

Each serving contains 50 mcg (2,000 IU) of vitamin D3 sourced from lichen. This exceeds the daily requirement for this age group.

Ritual claims that all of its vitamins are “made traceable” with a visible supply chain that a person can see online. The Essentials for Women 18+ multivitamin is vegan, gluten-free, allergen-free, and United States Pharmacopeia (USP)-verified.

The company recommends taking 2 capsules a day.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product are:

  • its additional nutrients, such as folate and iron
  • its visible supply chain
  • its USP verification

However, a person needs to purchase a subscription.

Price: At the time of publishing, Ritual Essential for Women 18+ cost $30 per month.

Persona Vitamin D 1000 IU

Best for most dietary requirements

Persona uses vitamin D3 sourced from Vitashine. This is a plant-based form of the vitamin.

Each tablet contains 25 mcg (1,000 IU) of vitamin D3. The product is free from major allergens, including soy, dairy, wheat, fish, nuts, eggs, and shellfish.

Persona claims that its vitamins are tested for quality and purity and inspected by a professional before shipping.

The company recommends taking 1 gelatin capsule per day.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product are:

  • its suitability for many dietary requirements
  • the relative ease of swallowing gelatin capsules
  • the company’s testing for quality and purity

However, Persona does not list the price of this product, which is likely only available to people who sign up for the service.

Price: While Persona does not state how much its Vitamin D 1000 IU package costs, each capsule costs $0.06.

Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil & Vitamin D3

Best for sport

This product contains vitamin D3 from lanolin and wild salmon oil, which is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Three capsules provide 75 mcg (3,000 IU) of vitamin D3, giving adults more than enough of this nutrient per day. A person can take fewer capsules if they want or need less of the vitamin.

This product is National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) Certified for Sport, which means that it has undergone testing for contaminants and banned substances, and the manufacturers meet CGMP standards.

The company recommends taking three capsules a day.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product are:

  • its NSF certification
  • its omega-3 contents
  • the option of taking fewer capsules for amended doses

However, the capsules contain animal byproducts. The gelatin derives from fish, and the company extracts vitamin D3 from lanolin. For this reason, the product is not suitable for people with vegan diets.

Price: At the time of publishing, one bottle of Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil & Vitamin D3 cost $48.

NOW Supplements Liquid Vitamin D3

Best for adults and children

This liquid contains 2.5 mcg (100 IU) of vitamin D3 per drop. Six drops would provide an adult with the recommended daily amount of vitamin D.

According to the manufacturers, this supplement is also suitable for children in safe amounts.

This brand has certifications from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which runs the UL National Brand Certification Program. This ensures that the company’s manufacturing, packaging, and warehousing practices are safe.

The company recommends that adults take four drops one to five times per day. Children should take four drops once a day.

Pros and cons

Some advantages include the suitability for adults and children and the UL certification. Also, some people may find drops easier to ingest than capsules.

However, this product is not suitable for people with vegan diets or others wishing to avoid animal byproducts, as the company extracts the D3 from lanolin.

Price: At the time of publishing, NOW Supplements Liquid Vitamin D3 cost $9.99.

Designs for Health Hi-Po Emulsi-D3

Best for adding to drinks

The company says that this supplement is highly concentrated and bioavailable, meaning that it is easy for the body to absorb. Each drop contains 50 mcg (2,000 IU) of vitamin D.

A person can add this product to drinks or put it on their tongue. However, it is essential not to take too much because of the high strength. A doctor can advise about the right amount to take.

All Designs for Health facilities have one or more certifications from organizations such as the Natural Products Association, which enforces strict quality standards for supplements.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product are:

  • its high concentration and easy absorption
  • its quick dispersal into drinks
  • its certifications for quality

Price: At the time of publishing, a person needed to create an account as a practitioner, patient, or student to view the cost of Hi-Pro Emulsi-D3. Designs for Health asks for documentation to verify a person’s status.

FormDiet suitabilityPrice
Care/of The Sunny D3capsulevegetarian, gluten free$7 per month
Ritual Essential for Women 18+capsulevegan, gluten free, allergen free$30 per month
Persona Vitamin D 1000 IUcapsuleallergen free, contains gelatin$0.06 per capsule
Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil & Vitamin D3capsulecontains animal byproducts$48 per bottle
NOW Supplements Liquid Vitamin D3liquidcontains animal byproducts$9.99 per bottle
Designs for Health Hi-Po Emulsi-D3liquidvegetarian, gluten free, dairy freelogin required for price

Taking high amounts of vitamin D orally can be toxic. Research suggests that the tolerable upper limit for adults is 100 mcg (4,000 IU) per day.

Some symptoms of vitamin D toxicity include:

It is important to note that vitamin D toxicity usually only stems from excessive supplementation, rather than from spending a lot of time in the sun or absorbing too much of the vitamin from food.

Vitamin D supplements can also react with certain medications, such as steroids, weight loss drugs, and medications that lower cholesterol. As always, it is a good idea to check with a healthcare professional before taking a new supplement.

Learn when vitamin D can be harmful here.

Safe exposure to sunlight is one of the most effective ways to get more vitamin D. But a person cannot get vitamin D from sitting near a window or outside in the shade.

In addition, some foods contain this nutrient, including:

  • oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel
  • mushrooms that grow under UV light
  • beef liver
  • egg yolks
  • fortified milk
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • fortified orange juice

Learn about the best food sources of vitamin D here.

A person should contact a healthcare professional if they notice any of these symptoms, which can indicate a vitamin D deficiency:

Anyone who has new or worsening symptoms after taking a vitamin D supplement should stop taking it and contact a doctor immediately.

Below are answers to some common questions about vitamin D supplements.

What is the best form of vitamin D to take?

The NIH describes these forms of vitamin D:

  • Food: The two main types of vitamin D available from food are D2 and D3. Fatty fish, such as trout and mackerel, and fish liver oil are the best sources of this vitamin. The U.S. and Canada also fortify milk and some milk alternatives with the nutrient.
  • Sun exposure: UVB radiation can penetrate the skin and lead to the production of vitamin D3. However, the season, the time and length of the day, and the weather can influence this. Also, older people and people with more melanin cannot produce as much vitamin D3 from sun exposure.
  • Dietary supplements: Supplements contain vitamin D2 or D3. While the way the body processes these in the same way, vitamin D3 may increase the amount of serum 25(OH)D for longer than vitamin D2. Low amounts of this serum can indicate a risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Learn how to get the most vitamin D from the sun here.

Is vitamin D3 better than vitamin D?

The body converts vitamin D into two forms: D2 and D3.

The NIH states that the body appears to absorb the two types at the same rate. The body then turns the vitamin into serum 25(OH)D.

However, levels of this serum are higher and present in the body for longer with D3 than D2. This may mean that a person has a lower risk of a deficiency if they take D3 supplements.

Learn the signs of getting enough vitamin D here.

How much vitamin D should a person take?

As the NIH notes, people require different amounts of vitamin D at different ages. The following table describes the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs).

AgeRDA
0–12 months10 mcg (400 IU)
1–70 years15 mcg (600 IU)
Over 70 years20 mcg (800 IU)

Learn about typical levels of vitamin D here.

Having limited, safe sunlight exposure several times a week can help a person get enough vitamin D. But for many reasons, this may not be possible, and some people need to take supplements.

A person may only need this supplement during the winter months, while others may need it year-round.

It is important to note that vitamin D supplements can interact with other medications. As always, check with a healthcare professional before taking a new supplement.

A doctor can take a blood test to look for a vitamin D deficiency. They may then recommend a dosage of a supplement, considering the person’s age and any other medications.