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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 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.
  • 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. 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, reducing rickets’ prevalence.

Learn more about vitamin D deficiency.

A person’s daily requirement for vitamin D depends on 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)

Pregnant or breastfeeding people 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 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, called ergocalciferol, and D3, 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

Learn more about the best supplements for vegans.

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 capsule.

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 these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best sustainably sourced vitamin: Care/of The Sunny D3

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

The vitamin is fermented with yeast and other foods to help 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 one 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 costs $7 per month.

Doseone capsule daily
Veganno
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicnot stated on website at time of writing
Key ingredientsacacia
Who it’s best forthose who live sustainably
Additivesno

Best multivitamin: Ritual Essential for Women 18+

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 two 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, which may not be suitable for those working with small budgets.

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

Dosetwo capsules daily
Veganyes
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicnot stated on website at time of writing
Key ingredientslichen

microalgae

folate

b12

iron
Who it’s best forthose looking for a multivitamin
Additivesno

Best for most dietary requirements: Persona Vitamin D 1000 IU

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.

Learn more about food allergies.

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

The company recommends taking one 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

Persona states that there is no subscription cost for its service. Customers only pay for the products they order. Costs will vary between users as their recommendations will be individual to them.

Price: Each Vitamin D 1000 IU capsule costs $0.06. The price of a person’s order may vary depending on the supplements Persona recommends.

Doseone capsule daily
Veganno
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicnot stated on website at time of writing
Key ingredientscholecalciferol
Who it’s best formost people with dietary/allergen requirements
Additivesnot stated on website at time of writing

Best for sport: Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil & Vitamin D3

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 over the recommended daily amount of this nutrient. 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 by-products. The gelatin derives from fish, and the company extracts vitamin D3 from lanolin. For this reason, the product is unsuitable for people with vegan or vegetarian diets. Additionally, this product may not be suitable for those with smaller budgets.

Price: At the time of publishing, one bottle of Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil & Vitamin D3 costs $53.

Dosethree capsules daily
Veganno
Gluten-freenot stated on website at time of writing
Non-GMOnot stated on website at time of writing
Organicnot stated on website at time of writing
Key ingredientslanolin

salmon oil
Who it’s best forthose that play sports and those that need an additional source of omega 3
Additivesno

Best for adults and children: NOW Supplements Liquid Vitamin D3

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 Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certifications, 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 its suitability for adults and children and the UL certification. Also, some people may find drops easier to ingest than capsules.

However, this product is unsuitable for people with vegan diets or others wishing to avoid animal by-products, as the company extracts the D3 from lanolin.

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

DoseAdults: 4 drops, 1–5 times daily
Children: 4 drops once daily
Veganno
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicnot stated on website at time of writing
Key ingredientslanolin
Who it’s best forboth adults and children
Additivesnot stated on website at time of writing

Best for adding to drinks: Designs for Health Hi-Po Emulsi-D3

The company says this supplement is highly concentrated and bioavailable, meaning 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
  • it does not contain vitamin K, so is an option for those taking anticoagulant medications

However, a person needs to create an account as a practitioner, patient, or student to view the cost of Hi-Po Emulsi-D3 on the company’s website.

Price: Although the brand does not list its prices to people without an account, a person can purchase it through other online retailers for $28.45.

Doseone drop per day
Veganno
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicnot stated on website at time of writing
Key ingredientscholecalciferol
Who it’s best forthose who want a capsule-free option and who take anticoagulant medications
Additivesno

Best easy-to-swallow capsules: Naturelo Vegan Vitamin D3, 2500 IU

The capsules are small in size, so they are easy to swallow. Each capsule contains 62.5 mcg (2,500 IU) of vitamin D.

These capsules use vegetable cellulose for the capsule and vitamin D sourced from lichen, meaning they are suitable for vegans. They do not contain soy, nuts, dairy, yeast, eggs, caffeine, colors, or preservatives.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product include:

  • suitable for vegans
  • the capsule is easy to swallow
  • affordable

However, these capsules offer over the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, so a person should be mindful of how many they take in a day.

Price: At the time of publishing, a bottle of 180 mini capsules costs $22.46.

Doseone capsule daily
Veganyes
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicyes
Key ingredientswild-harvested lichen
Who it’s best forvegans
Additivesno

Best for children: Mama Bear Organic Kids Vitamin D3

These vitamins come in a gummy form in strawberry, orange and lemon flavors. Each gummy contains 25 mcg (1,000 IU) per serving and is suitable for vegetarians.

As a flavored gummy, this product may be best suited for children. However, adults who find capsules difficult to swallow may also find these gummies suitable.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product include:

  • comes in an easy-to-eat form
  • flavored with organic ingredients
  • allergy-friendly

However, it is not suitable for vegans.

Price: At the time of publishing, one bottle of Mama Bear Organic Kids Vitamin D3 costs $14.18.

Doseone gummy daily
Veganno
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicyes
Key ingredientscholecalciferol
Who it’s best forchildren
Additivesno

Best non-capsule option: Carlyle Vitamin D3, 2000 IU Chewables

These chewable tablets are an alternative for those who dislike swallowing capsules. They come in a natural berry flavor and are free from wheat, yeast, soy, gluten, lactose, and GMO ingredients.

The vegetarian formula provides 50 mcg (2,000 IU) of vitamin D3 per serving. A person should take one chewable tablet daily with food.

Pros and cons

Advantages of this product may include:

  • its high dosage of vitamin D3
  • chewable tablet form
  • allergy-friendly
  • affordable

However, it is unsuitable for vegans, and the company does not state whether there are additives in the product.

Price: One bottle of Carlyle Vitamin D3 Chewables costs $9.40.

Doseone daily
Veganno
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicnot stated on website at time of writing
Key ingredientscholecalciferol
Who it’s best forpeople who do not like swallowing tablets
Additivesnot stated on website at time of writing

Best softgel option: NatureWise Vitamin D3, 5000 IU, 125 mcg, 360 softgels

According to the manufacturers, these softgels are more bioavailable than tablet or powder forms of vitamin D. This means the vitamin D can enter a person’s circulation more quickly and easily than other forms.

According to the company, this supplement contains no wheat, dairy, gluten, corn, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, or shellfish.

Pros and cons

Some advantages of this product may include:

  • easy-to-swallow softgels
  • according to the manufacturer, the vitamin D can enter a person’s circulation faster and easier
  • allergy-friendly

However, it is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans due to the gelatin capsule. Additionally, the FDA has not evaluated the manufacturer’s statements.

Price: At the time of publishing, one bottle of NatureWise Vitamin D3 Softgels costs $14.24.

Doseone softgel daily
Veganno
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicyes
Key ingredientscholecalciferol
Who it’s best forpeople who prefer softgels
Additivesno

Best high-dose supplement: Life Extension Vitamin D3

Each Life Extension softgel contains 125 mcg (5,000 IU) of vitamin D3. This product may be suitable for people who need a high dose of vitamin D.

However, the product labeling advises that a person taking over 2,000 IU of vitamin D from diet supplements each day should periodically have a blood test to determine their vitamin D levels.

The product comes in bottles of 60 or 120 softgels.

Pros and cons

  • it provides a high dosage of vitamin D3
  • the softgels are easy to swallow
  • it is gluten and GMO-free

However, it is not suitable for vegetarians and vegans due to the gelatin capsule. Additionally, the dose may be too high for some people.

Price: At the time of publishing, one bottle of Life Extension Vitamin D3 softgels costs $9.23–15.97.

Doseone softgel daily
Veganno
Gluten-freeyes
Non-GMOyes
Organicnot stated on website at time of writing
Key ingredientscholecalciferol
Who it’s best forthose who need a high dose of vitamin D3
Additivesnot stated on website at the time of writing

The table below compares each of the brands included in this article.

Form Diet 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 by-products$53
NOW Supplements Liquid Vitamin D3liquidcontains animal by-products$9.99
Designs for Health Hi-Po Emulsi-D3liquidvegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free$28.45
Naturelo Vegan Vitamin D3, 2500 IUcapsulevegan, gluten free, non-gmo, allergen free$22.46
Mama Bear Organic Kids Vitamin D3gummyvegetarian, gluten-free, non-gmo, allergy-friendly, organic$14.18
Carlyle Vitamin D3, 2000 IU Chewableschewable tabletvegetarian, gluten-free, GMO-free, allergen-friendly$9.40
Naturewise Vitamin D3, 5000 IU, 125 mcg, 360 softgelssoftgelcontains gelatin, gluten-free, GMO-free, organic, allergy-friendly$14.24
Life Extension Vitamin D3softgelcontains gelatin, gluten-free, GMO-free$9.23–15.97

Taking high amounts of vitamin D by mouth 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. A person should 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.

Some foods contain this nutrient, including:

Learn about the best food sources of vitamin D here.

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

A person should contact a doctor immediately if they have new or worsening symptoms after taking vitamin D.

Below are answers to some of the top frequently asked 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 in 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, 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 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.

Is it safe to take vitamin D supplements daily?

Taken in appropriate doses, vitamin D is safe to take daily. A person should be careful not to exceed the daily recommended doses of vitamin D as taking too much can be toxic. The upper intake level for people over 19 is 100 mcg (4,000 IU). More information on the safe dosages of vitamin D is on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website.

A person should speak with a doctor before taking any new supplements. They should always follow the instructions on their chosen product and stop using the supplement if they develop any adverse reactions.

When is the best time to take vitamin D supplements?

Vitamin D is best taken with meals to enhance the absorption into a person’s circulation. Many brands recommend taking the supplement with meals.

According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin D is fat-soluble. A person can consider taking it with food that contains some fat.

Having limited, safe sunlight exposure several times a week can help a person get enough vitamin D, but this may not be possible for many reasons. As a result, some people need to take supplements to get their recommended dose of vitamin D.

A person may only need this supplement during winter, 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 supplement dosage, considering the person’s age and any other medications.