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 (think winter blues), 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. If you find yourself indoors more often than not, here are the best supplements to help maintain optimal levels of Vitamin D.
Best Vitamin D Supplements
- Best Overall Vitamin D: Natural Stacks Vitamin D
- Best Vitamin D with K2: Transparent Labs Raw Series Vitamin D-3
- Best Value Vitamin D: NatureWise Vitamin D3
- Best Vitamin D for Third-Party Testing: Carlson Vitamin D3
- Best 2,000 IU Vitamin D: Solimo Vitamin D3
- Best Vitamin D For Vegans: Sports Research Vegan D3
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 Vitamin D
Natural Stacks Vitamin D combines a high dose — 5000 International Units (IU) per single-softgel serving — with 100 milligrams of organic coconut oil to better help with absorption. Natural Stacks uses what they call their “Open Source” transparency program that provides ingredient traceability and third-party testing results for every batch.
Each single-serving softgel features 5,000 IU of natural Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Additionally, it contains 100 milligrams of organic coconut oil to allow for better absorption.
There is the risk of potential discoloration if the softgels are stored in a place that is on the colder side for too long, though it wouldn’t alter the potency of the supplement.
Who Should Buy Natural Stacks Vitamin D
- Those who want a high-dosage Vitamin D supplement.
- Anyone who prefers transparent third-party testing of their supplements.
- People who are on a tight supplement budget.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Natural Stacks Vitamin D
- Folks using a Vitamin D supplement for the first time who want a lower dose.
- Anyone unable to maintain a steady temperature for the supplement cabinet.
Overall, Natural Stacks checks a lot of boxes to reach the top of this list — good value, high dose per serving, and strong third-party testing. Assuming the high dose is desirable, this is a solid choice.
[Related: Could Baking Soda Be The Best Workout Supplement You’ve Never Tried?]
Best Vitamin D with K2
Transparent Labs RawSeries delivers 5,000 IU of Vitamin D per serving. This supplement has no artificial sweeteners or colorings, is free from GMOs and artificial preservatives, and is gluten-free. In addition to the high Vitamin D content, this product also provides 100 micrograms of Vitamin K2, which helps with the metabolism of calcium.
This Vitamin D supplement provides 5000 IU per serving. It is free from artificial sweeteners, artificial coloring, GMOs, and artificial preservatives. Additionally, it is gluten-free.
Who Should Buy Transparent Labs Raw Series Vitamin D-3
- Those who follow a gluten-free diet.
- Anyone looking for a boost of Vitamin K2 — each serving provides 100 micrograms.
- Folks who prefer their supplements avoid artificial sweeteners.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Transparent Labs Raw Series Vitamin D-3
- People who want a pure Vitamin D supplement without any additional vitamins.
- Those who need a lower dose supplement.
Transparent Labs provides products that are free from a lot of often undesirable additives such as artificial sweeteners and GMOs. The high dosage provided in combination with the added Vitamin K pushes this product towards the top of our list. The pricing is just slightly higher than other competitive Vitamin D supplement options on the market, but it’s not by much and it likely worth it for those seeking that Vitamin K.
[Related: The Best Types Of Supplements For Performance, Weight Loss, And Health]
Best Value Vitamin D
NatureWise made a Vitamin D supplement that is well priced and third-party tested for purity and potency. Additionally, it’s non-GMO, uses United States Pharmacopeia grade Vitamin D, and it’s free from all major allergens. Each single-pill serving provides 5000 IU of Vitamin D and the pills themselves are made with extra virgin olive oil.
NatureWise ticks all the boxes: great value, third party tested, hypoallergenic, and it's encased with olive oil to help absorption.
Who Should Buy NatureWise Vitamin D3
- Those looking to order their Vitamin D supplements in bulk.
- Anyone who needs to ensure their supplements are hypoallergenic.
- People who are happy to have the pills made with extra virgin olive oil to help with absorption.
Who Shouldn’t Buy NatureWise Vitamin D3
- 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.
Each bottle of NatureWise’s Vitamin D supplement is marked as free from wheat, gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish — a nice assurance for anyone concerned about potential allergies. Each bottle contains a whopping 360 servings making this a solid choice for anyone shopping for supplements on a budget.
[Related: Intermittent Fasting 101: A Guide To Benefits, Muscle Gain, And More]
Best Vitamin D for Third-Party Testing
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. Each single-softgel serving contains sunflower oil and provides 2000 IU of Vitamin D. Carlson’s product is milk- and casein-free as well as devoid of all preservatives. Additionally, it is compatible with those who follow a gluten-free diet.
Carlson's Vitamin D received the highest purity and label accuracy rating from the third-party testing company Labdoor, It contains sunflower oil to help improve absorption.
Who Should Buy Carlson Vitamin D3
- Those who respect the highest ratings for purity and label accuracy from Labdoor.
- Anyone happy to have their supplements free of salt, wheat, corn, soy, sugar, milk, yeast, and preservatives.
- Folks who appreciate sunflower oil, which may improve absorption.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Carlson Vitamin D3
- People on a tighter supplement budget — this is one of the pricier Vitamin D3 supplements on the list.
- Those who follow a vegetarian diet — the capsules are made with gelatin.
[Related: Best Macros Calculator For Tracking Muscle Gain And Fat Loss]
Best 2,000 IU Vitamin D
If 5,000 IU of Vitamin D — 625 percent of the recommended daily intake — is more than you’d like to take, then Solimo is a very well-priced option for a lower dosage. Each serving provides 2000 IU of Vitamin D — 250 percent of the recommended daily intake — and each bottle contains 365 single-softgel servings. The softgels are gluten-free and contain no lactose.
If you're looking for a lower dose of 2,000 IU per serving, Solimo has produced a well-priced option. The ingredients include safflower oil, gelatin, glycerin, and purified water.
Who Should Buy Solimo Vitamin D3
- Anyone seeking a lower Vitamin D dosage compared to most competitive options.
- People who are gluten-free or lactose-intolerant.
- Those on a tight supplement budget.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Solimo Vitamin D3
- Those who only consume supplements that have been third-party for label accuracy.
- Folks who want a higher dosage Vitamin D supplement.
The biggest knock against Solimo is the lack of third-party testing that many other comparable options on the market have acquired. Although the absence of third-party testing is glaring, the rest of Solimo’s stats are solid enough to rank it highly on our list. A full year’s worth of servings in a single bottle is no joke and the lower dose per serving might be attractive to many who are taking a Vitamin D supplement for the first time.
[Related: Nutrition For Bulking: 10 Tips For Intelligent Muscle Gain]
Best Vitamin D For Vegans
When taking into account prices, pill count, and potency — the number of International Units you get per dollar — Sports Research is a great value Vitamin D. It delivers 5,000 IU, it’s non-GMO, and it’s fit for a vegan diet. One pill delivers 625 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D3.
This Vitamin D3 supplement delivers 5,000 IU — one pill delivers 625 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D3. It is non-GMO and fit for a vegan diet as it is free from animal ingredients such as lanolin and bovine.
Who Should Buy Sports Research Vegan D3
- Those who value their Vitamin D3 coming from plant-based sources.
- People who want their supplements to be non-GMO and free of animal ingredients such as lanolin and bovine.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Sports Research Vegan D3
- Those who want to spend as little as possible on vitamins.
- Folks who want a shorter ingredient list.
Each pill contains organic virgin coconut oil, non-GMO rice bran wax, tapioca starch, vegetable glycerin, and purified water.
[Related: The Lifter’s Guide To Magnesium: What This Nutrient Does For Strength]
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 — 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” supplement 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.
- One cup of milk: 125 IU
- Four ounces of shrimp: 152 IU
- Two eggs: 160 IU
- 3.5 ounces of tuna: 236 IU
- Three ounces of salmon: 370 IU
[Related: How to Burn Fat for Weight Loss and More Definition]
What To Consider Before Buying
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.