There’s a very good chance you could use a Vitamin D supplement. Studies vary (and different organizations have different standards for what constitutes a deficiency) but research suggests that between 25 and 75 percent of Americans are low in Vitamin D, with overweight and obese people at a higher risk. And it’s an important nutrient: healthy levels are linked to better bone health, mood, testosterone levels, body composition, heart health, and athletic performance.
While it’s commonly called “the sunshine vitamin” because sunlight helps the body produce it on its own, you need 20 minutes in the sun with 40 percent of your skin exposed in order to meet the daily requirement. That’s just not feasible for most people, and most food sources are far beneath the recommended daily intake — so here are the best supplements to help maintain optimal levels.
Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns or before beginning any new workout regimen.
Best Overall: NatureWise Vitamin D3
NatureWise ticks all the boxes: great value, third party tested, hypoallergenic, and it's encased with olive oil to help absorption.
NatureWise made our favorite Vitamin D supplement. Surprisingly well priced, it’s been third party tested for purity and potency, it’s non-GMO, it uses United States Pharmacopeia grade Vitamin D, plus it’s free from all major allergens.
- One pill delivers a remarkable 5,000 International Units each.
- Considering its quality, this is one of the best value Vitamin D supplements.
- This product is hypoallergenic, marked this as free from wheat, gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish.
- The vitamin is encased in a capsule with extra virgin olive oil, which may improve absorption.
- NatureWise had their Vitamin D third party tested to ensure purity and label accuracy.
- Because they’re made from gelatin, the pills aren’t vegetarian friendly — though they are halal.
- Despite the fat content, there’s no information about the calorie content of each pill.
Contender: Nature Made Vitamin D3 Extra Strength
Nature Made's Vitamin D has a strong dose and it's been third party tested by USP, which has famously strict standards for quality.
With a hefty serving of 5,000 International Units and a robust purity certification from USP, Nature Made’s Vitamin D is a solid product, so long as you have no issues with the soy and corn content.
- Nature Made’s pills have a strong dose of 5,000 IU of Vitamin D
- These pills are friendly on gluten intolerant folk.
- Vitamin D3 Extra Strength has been third party tested by USP to ensure accuracy.
- The gelatin capsules aren’t vegetarian, nor are they kosher or halal.
- There’s no calorie information on the bottle.
- The pills contain soy, corn, and glycerin, which may be unacceptable to some users.
Most Thoroughly Tested: Carlson Vitamin D3
Carlson's Vitamin D received the highest purity and label accuracy rating from the third party testing company Labdoor, plus it contains sunflower oil to help improve absorption.
Carlson is on the pricier side, but it’s got one of the hardest certifications a supplement can get: the highest quality ranking from the independent testing organization, Labdoor.
- Carlson received the highest ratings for purity and label accuracy from Labdoor.
- The product is free of salt, wheat, corn, soy, sugar, milk, yeast, and preservatives.
- Each pill contains some sunflower oil, which may improve absorption.
- This is one of the pricier Vitamin D3 supplements.
- The gelatin capsules take Carlson’s Vitamin D3 off the menu for vegetarians.
Best for the Money: Doctor’s Best Vitamin D3
When you factor in pill count and potency, Doctor's Best gives you the best bang for your buck and a hefty dose of 5,000 International Units.
When taking into account prices, pill count, and potency — the number of International Units you get per dollar — Doctor’s Best to be the best value Vitamin D3. It delivers 5,000 IU, it’s non-GMO, and it’s third party tested.
- Doctor’s Best has the best value of all the Vitamin D3 supplements we looked at.
- The label states it has been third party tested for potency and label accuracy.
- The contents are both non-GMO and gluten free.
- The pills are made from gelatin, so they’re vegetarian-friendly
- Some users report that the pills often arrive stuck together in the bottle.
- Reviews suggest that it may be best to open the pill before consuming, as the gelatin may not completely break down during digestion.
Best 2,000 IU Product: Amazon Brand Solimo Vitamin D3
If you're looking for a lower dose of 2,000 IU per dose, Amazon's own brand Solimo has produced a well priced option with a money back guarantee.
If 5,000 IU, or 625 percent of the recommended daily intake, is more than you’d like to take then Solimo is a very well-priced option. You get a full year’s supply at once, plus you have a money back guarantee.
- On a cost-per-International Unit basis, this is a very well priced option.
- The pills contain no gluten or lactose.
- Solimo hasn’t had this product tested by a third party for label accuracy.
Best Vegan-Friendly Vitamin D: Doctor’s Best Vegan D3
A lot of Vitamin D is sourced from sheep's wool and encased in gelatin made from animal bones, but Doctor's Best produced a solid alternative that's reasonably priced and certified vegan.
Most Vitamin D pills come in gelatin made from animal bones and the vitamin itself is often sourced from sheep’s wool. Doctor’s Best produced a well priced vegan alternative made from Vitashine, the world’s only Vitamin D3 registered with the Vegan Society and Vegetarian Society.
- This product has an unusual form of D3 that’s completely plant-based and friendly to vegans, as well as those who need kosher or halal supplements.
- One pill delivers 310 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D3.
- Because it’s plant-based, this product is a little pricier than other Vitamin D supplements.
- Each pill contains sucrose and maltodextrin, along with starch, silicon dioxide, and ascorbyl palmitate, ingredients some consumers may not want with their vitamins.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
Vitamin D is one of those nutrients where it may be useful to exceed the recommended daily intake of 800 IU, or International Units — within reason. Some studies suggest that intakes closer to 1,120 to 1,680 IU is needed to maintain sufficient blood levels, and overweight or obese people may need more.(1)(2) The Institute of Medicine puts the safe upper limit at 4,000 IU, although a few studies have seen no ill effects from upwards of 10,000 IU.(3)(4)
Natural Sources of Vitamin D
Many consider Vitamin D as a “no brainer” supplements because it’s extraordinarily difficult to get enough of it from whole food sources or from your lifestyle. As previously mentioned, you need about 20 minutes outside, on a cloudless day, half naked, to get enough of it from the sun. It occurs in some food sources, but it’s tough. Here are your best bets, and remember that 600 IU is the minimum you need to avoid a deficiency.
- 1 cup of milk: 125 IU
- 4 ounces of shrimp: 152 IU
- Two eggs: 160 IU
- 3.5 ounces of tuna: 236 IU
- 3 ounces of salmon: 370 IU
- While sufficient Vitamin D is associated with better sleep, some find it keeps them awake if it’s taken too late at night. You may want to take it earlier in the day.
- Vitamin D absorbs best with food, and studies have found it absorbs best when taken with the biggest meal of the day.(5)
- As a fat soluble vitamin, be sure your meal contains some fat when you’re popping your pill.
- Store your pills in a cool, dry place — the gelatin capsules stick together easily when left in the heat.
- Evidence suggests that Vitamin K, calcium, and Vitamin D interact synergistically to improve bone health, so maintain a healthy intake of these nutrients as well.(6)
You should speak to a doctor before starting any new nutrition regimen, but between us, unless you’re an avid surfer or spend a lot of time sunbathing, it’s a good idea to take a Vitamin D supplement. Fortunately, they’re inexpensive, easy to find, and we’ve found the best ones you can pick from.
- Aloia JF, et al. Vitamin D intake to attain a desired serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Jun;87(6):1952-8.
- Cashman KD, et al. Improved Dietary Guidelines for Vitamin D: Application of Individual Participant Data (IPD)-Level Meta-Regression Analyses. Nutrients. 2017 May 8;9(5). pii: E469.
- Ross AC, et al. The 2011 report on dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D from the Institute of Medicine: what clinicians need to know. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jan;96(1):53-8.
- Hathcock JN, et al. Risk assessment for vitamin D. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;85(1):6-18.
- Mulligan GB, et al. Taking vitamin D with the largest meal improves absorption and results in higher serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. J Bone Miner Res. 2010 Apr;25(4):928-30.
- van Ballegooijen AJ, et al. The Synergistic Interplay between Vitamins D and K for Bone and Cardiovascular Health: A Narrative Review. Send to Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:7454376.