10 Best Vitamin D Supplements to Support Your Bones, Brain, and Immune System
Most experts agree that it’s best to get your vitamins and minerals from food whenever possible. But in the case of vitamin D, that can be tough.
Yes, you can get vitamin D from a handful of foods like eggs, fortified milk or cereal, fatty fish such as salmon, and some mushrooms. And yes, your body can also make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. But for many of us, that’s not enough. Research shows many Americans are vitamin D deficient, says Arielle Levitan, M.D., author of The Vitamin Solution.
But getting enough of the nutrient is crucial. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so it’s especially important for keeping your bones healthy and reducing your risk of osteoporosis. It’s also a key player for immune health. “We need the vitamin for our bodies to be able to fight off viruses and bacteria,” explains Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D.N., nutrition expert and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen.
Vitamin D works behind the scenes in other ways, too. The nutrient helps keep inflammation levels in check, promotes healthy muscle function, and is even involved in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and brain function, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Do you need to take a vitamin D supplement?
The majority of adults don’t get enough vitamin D from food and sun exposure. As a result, “most adults would benefit from a vitamin D supplement depending on factors such as age, skin tone, where you live, and whether you have certain medical conditions,” Dr. Levitan explains.
You may need a supplement, especially in the non-summer months, if you live in a northern latitude where the sun’s rays are weaker—anywhere north of San Francisco, Denver, St. Louis, or Richmond, Virginia, Harvard Health experts say. You might also be short on D if you’re older or have darker skin—two factors that make it harder for skin to convert sunlight into vitamin D.
The bottom line? “If you live in a very sunny state and spend plenty of time outside and eat plenty of fatty fish, you probably don’t need a supplement,” Largeman-Roth says. If you don’t tick those boxes, talk to your doctor, who can check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test and determine if a supplement is right for you.
How to choose the best vitamin D supplement
As with all supplements, not every bottle of vitamin D is created equal. The good news is that finding a high-quality supplement doesn’t have to be hugely complicated. Some factors to keep in mind while you shop:
- Choose vitamin D3, if you can. If you see vitamins D2 and D3 on the store shelf, go with the latter. “Both vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 increase levels of the vitamin in the blood, but D3 might lead to a greater and longer increase than D2,” explains Jinan Banna, R.D., Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
- Don’t go dose crazy. More isn’t always better, and very high amounts (think, more than 4,000 IU daily) can actually be toxic. “Most people do well between 800 and 2,000 IU daily,” Dr. Levitan says. Your doctor can help you decide the right amount for you based on a current blood test.
- Consider the delivery method. One study found that vitamin D in gummy form may be more absorbent than capsules or tablets. Another study concluded that liposomal vitamin D—the kind delivered with certain lipids—can also enhance absorption. But if you’d rather just take a pill, you’ll still benefit, Largeman-Roth says.
- Look for trusted verifications. Choose products that have been verified by independent certifiers, like the US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) or NSF International, all three experts say. Either verification ensures that you’re getting the amount of D listed on the product label, without a side of unwanted ingredients or additives.
Ready to pick up a bottle of the sunshine vitamin? Here are the best vitamin D supplements, according to experts.
Because most people don’t get enough, especially in the winter months.