While there are a lot of precautions about getting too much sun, our bodies also need sun exposure to produce vitamin D. This essential vitamin is responsible for building strong bones and teeth, keeping our immune system strong, and may even help stave off depression. However, an estimated 10% to upwards of 40% of the population have insufficient levels.
Fortunately, a vitamin D supplement can increase your stores and keep you healthy. This brief shopping guide gives you all the info you need on selecting a safe and effective supplement and includes our top pick from Nature Made.
Who needs a vitamin D supplement?
The best way to tell if you need to supplement with vitamin D is to get a blood test from your doctor. D levels between 20 and 29 mg/mL are considered insufficient, and below 20 mg/mL is considered a deficiency.
People who don't get adequate sun exposure because they don't go outside often or cover up excessively with clothing or sunscreen when they do, may develop an insufficiency. Populations who live far north or far south of the equator are also at risk.
Other at-risk populations include:
Darker skinned people
Considerations when choosing Vitamin D supplements
Type: There are two types of vitamin D supplements available. D2 (ergocalciferol) is the type of D synthesized by plants. D2 supplements are derived from irradiated mushrooms. While D2 is inexpensive and can raise your blood levels, it doesn't maintain those levels as well as D3. D3 (cholecalciferol) is the nutritionist-preferred type of D that's created by your body from sun exposure. It's often obtained from lamb's wool, though vegan alternatives are also available.
Form: D supplements come in tablets, softgels, liquid drops, and gummies. Softgels and liquid forms are recommended if you take antacids that reduce the stomach's ability to dissolve tablets. Be aware that some gummies contain high sugar and may also contain gelatin, which isn't vegetarian friendly.
Dosage: While the recommended dosage of vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) a day, you'll see a lot of D supplements with a much higher dosage, anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 IU per pill, softgel, or gummy. Some nutritionists believes the RDA of vitamin D isn't sufficient. Consult with a doctor before taking doses higher than 2,000 IU a day.
Additional vitamins: Some D3 supplements include vitamin K, which is believed to work with D to help regulate calcium (vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium). You may also see D supplements with added magnesium, which helps metabolize D.
Coconut/MCT oil: Because D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it's better absorbed when taken with fat. Some softgel and liquid supplements include coconut oil or MCT oil that's high in healthy fats in their formulas.
Vitamin D Supplement prices
Tablets are the most inexpensive form of vitamin D supplements, which you can find below $10 a bottle. Softgels, gummies, and liquids can cost up to $35 a bottle, with mid-priced options between $15 and $20.
Q. What are some symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency?
A. Symptoms of deficiency can include depression, fatigue, bone pain in ribs or legs, low bone density, hair loss, slower wound healing, and increased susceptibility to infections, like colds or the flu. Rickets is a severe condition resulting from a deficiency.
Q. Can I get vitamin D from food?
A. Unlike with the other essential vitamins, vitamin D isn't found in many foods. Egg yolks, oily fish, cod liver oil, and fortified dairy products and orange juice contain vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements we recommend
Best of the best: Nature Made Vitamin D3 2,000 IU Tablets
Our take: D3 tablets from a trusted brand for daily intake.
What we like: Free of gluten and artificial colors and flavors. Suitable potency at 2,000 IU per tablet for most consumers.
What we dislike: At six cents a pill, a bit pricier than other manufacturers.
Best bang for your buck: Bronson Vitamin D3 2,000 IU Certified Organic Vitamin D Supplement
Our take: An organic, allergen-free D3 supplement from a brand that's been in the industry since 1960.
What we like: Small tablets are easy to swallow. Just three cents a pill. Contains no gluten, wheat, soy, or nuts.
What we dislike: Contains corn products, which some users are sensitive to.
Choice 3: NatureWise Vitamin D3 5,000 IU
Our take: A high-potency D3 supplement in softgel form.
What we like: Each softgel contains a whopping 5,000 IU of D3. Liquid formula includes organic olive oil, which may increase absorption.
What we dislike: Softgels are not vegetarian.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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