Why You Need Vitamin D And How To Get It: 12 Best Vitamin D Supplements
There’s a reason that people (and plants) can perk up in the sunshine – that reason is vitamin D. Vitamin D is something our body naturally needs but doesn’t always get enough of. In fact, studies have shown that around 24% of the US population has a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D does so much for us. It helps our nervous system form a bridge between body and brain, strengthens our bones, boosts our immune system, and can have a big impact on our mental state too.
While you may think standing outside in the light is enough to boost your intake, you may need a little more help, especially if you live in a place that doesn’t dole out sunshine every single day. This is where supplements can come in handy. Here, we take a look at the benefits of taking vitamin D supplements, who may need higher levels of Vitamin D in their life, and which supplements are the best ones on the market.
SEE ALSO: 8 Calming Activities To Help Soothe An Upset Stomach
What you should know before buying vitamin D supplements
If the idea of a sunshine pill is sounding pretty good, it helps to know exactly what a boost of vitamin D can bring to the table and how it works. First, as mentioned, vitamin D is something our body truly needs. It influences so much – including metabolism, cell growth, and mental health.
We mostly associate vitamin D with being a sunshine drug in its natural form. It takes the sunshine to encourage the body to produce its own vitamin D. But it can also be found in food too. You can get vitamin D in fish, eggs, mushrooms, and even in milk. Certain dietary requirements can mean that some people get less vitamin D naturally which again, is where the choice of supplements can help. Here, we take a closer look at the ins and outs of vitamin D supplements.
What are the benefits of taking vitamin D?
We all know the body needs certain vitamins and minerals to function and vitamin D is definitely up there as something your body needs to thrive. Here are some incredible health benefits you can expect when your vitamin D levels are riding high. Better bone health. Vitamin D is known for helping with healthy bones as it serves up better bone strength thanks to encouraging the body with calcium absorption. Because of this it also stops bones from becoming brittle and can keep bone diseases like osteoporosis at bay. Vitamin D also encourages better muscle health and can play a positive role in reducing high blood pressure and hypertension. This vitamin is great for boosting heart health and keeping your body beating strong.
There have also been links between vitamin D and reducing the risks of both kinds of diabetes as it can lower the amount of sugar in your blood when combined with calcium. A solid vitamin D intake can also boost your immune system and helps to fend off inflammation. This is why vitamin D is pushed so much in the winter months when flu and cold season is upon us and also why it played such an integral role as a potential treatment in the early days of the pandemic.
There have been significant links between vitamin D deficiencies and mental health and while more research is required, it does seem to correlate that low vitamin D levels can contribute to low moods. So what are the common symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency? If you feel like you may be lacking in the inner sunshine department, these could be the signs that you are low on vitamin D.
- Fatigue or low energy
- Muscle weakness and muscle cramps
- Mood swings and depressive episodes
- Bone pain or back pain
- Slow wound healing
- Poor immune system – frequently getting ill
- Weight gain
Who has higher needs for vitamin D?
While a vitamin D deficiency is considered to be relatively common in both adults and children, there are some people who need to pay extra attention to their intake. This can be because of dietary choices, existing health conditions, lifestyle, and genetic makeup. Here are some people who may need to consider the importance of boosting their vitamin D intake…
- Lactose intolerant people: As vitamin D can naturally come from milk and other dairies, if you don’t consume these foods you may have a deficiency.
- Obese people: Those with higher levels of abdominal fat are also believed to be in a risk group for low vitamin D levels although the reasoning is unclear.
- People on plant-based diets: Similar to lactose-free people, vitamin D in its natural form is often found in animal-based products such as eggs, fish, milk, etc. If you don’t consume these things you may need to look for sources elsewhere to boost your intake.
- People with darker skin: People who have more melanin in their skin may not absorb as much UV radiation which means they may not absorb as much vitamin D from sunlight.
- Older adults: The kidneys play a major role in vitamin D production and as renal function (and immune function) can decline with age, this can lead to lower vitamin D levels in the elderly population.
- People who don’t get enough sun: As sunshine is a natural source of encouraging our body to make vitamin D, if we don’t get enough of it, we can’t produce enough of it.
- People with gastrointestinal issues: If you have gastro issues that impede your ability to absorb nutrients, this will also impact your vitamin D levels.
How much vitamin D should I take?
A fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D supplements can help bring you up to speed if you aren’t getting the recommended daily amount. The amount you need a day depends on your age range as older people may need a higher dose, although knowing your current level can be tricky to work out. Your doctor should be able to let you know what your vitamin D levels are by giving you a blood test to determine your current levels.
- Children up to 12 months – 400 IU of vitamin D (international units)
- People 1 – 70 years – 600 IU of vitamin D
- People over 70 years – 800 IU of vitamin D
- What is the best time of day to take vitamin D?
It’s recommended to take vitamin D with meals as eating alongside your supplement encourages better absorption. In fact, studies have shown that taking vitamin D with the largest meal of the day enhanced vitamin D in the blood by a staggering 50% after a few months. You can take your supplement at breakfast (taking it with a source of fat may also encourage absorption). You can also take it later in the day if you prefer although taking it in the evening may disrupt your sleep as it can suppress melatonin.
Can You Get Enough Vitamin D Without Supplementation?
As mentioned, vitamin D can be found naturally – in everything from a glut of sunshine to a runny egg yolk. Theoretically, it is possible to get enough vitamin D naturally but for many this just isn’t a reality as not enough people live in places or have lifestyles that support enough sun exposure (and also it’s not healthy in other ways to be out in the sun all the time). Also, people have varying diets and personal health challenges that also make it difficult to stock up on vitamin D. However, if you want to know more about how to boost your levels without the need to turn to a supplement, here are some suggestions.
- Sunlight – you can get vitamin D from the sun, but you can’t get too much of it this way without running the risk of skin damage and other issues. Short bouts are best and sunscreen with SPF is always a must. Studies have shown that noontime is the time that the body is best equipped to make vitamin D and it’s suggested that the more skin exposed, the more chance of enhancing your levels. For healthy blood levels it’s recommended to get 10-30 minutes three times a week for healthy adults, although these factors will vary depending on skin type, where you live, and other issues.
- Fatty fish – Salmon, tuna, herring, sardine – there are tons of delicious fatty and oily fish out there and they can be a great source for upping your natural amount of vitamin D. For example a 100-gram piece of farmed Atlantic salmon can serve up to 526 IU of vitamin D. If you don’t like eating fish then a cop liver oil supplement can also help as it holds 450 IU of vitamin D per teaspoon and also comes with plenty of vitamin A too.
- Egg yolk – Egg yolks are another great source of natural vitamin D although not as high as some of the other foods. Still, with 37 IU of vitamin D per yolk, you can enjoy a tasty top-up. If you want to improve these numbers, look for eggs from free-range hens or hens that have been fed a vitamin D rich diet.
- Beef liver – If you like the taste, beef liver also comes with vitamin D. You can expect a cooked 2.5 ounce serving to deliver 36 IU of vitamin D along with a bunch of other important vitamins, minerals, and acids. It’s worth noting that beef liver can be high in cholesterol.
- Mushrooms – Mushrooms are a great source of non-animal-derived vitamin D because they also synthesize sunlight in similar ways that people do. It’s worth noting that a lot of commercial mushrooms are grown in the dark, making their vitamin D levels low. Wild mushrooms can be a better option with one cup of wild mushrooms (morel for example) giving around 136 IU.
- Other food sources – You can also find vitamin D in some cereals, fat spreads, and other fortified foods.
What is the difference between vitamin D and vitamin D3?
Vitamin D can refer to two different sources – vitamin D2 which is found in plants and vitamin D3 which is found in animal foods and also produced in the body. Vitamin D3 is also called cholecalciferol and this is believed to be better for increasing vitamin D in your blood levels than D2 (also called ergocalciferol).
How to choose the best vitamin D supplements
Knowing what to look for when it comes to picking the best vitamin D supplements is all about getting familiar with the label and digging in to do a bit of research. Here are some tips to help you choose.
- Ingredients: Keep an eye out for unnecessary ingredients – you want to swerve additives, artificial colors, and added sugars or sweeteners.
- Form of vitamin D: As above, there are two different kinds of vitamin D (D3 and D2). Most are made from D3 as the body absorbs it better although this is usually made with lanolin (from sheep’s wool) meaning that it’s not vegan friendly.
- Third-party quality assurance: Make sure that your supplement has been tested and ticked off by a third party.
- Dose of the vitamin: Remember vitamin D needs do vary by need and age and not all supplements will have the same dosage. Read the dosage and choose according to your own personal needs depending on your deficiency level and age group. New studies are showing that the most effective vitamin D supplements also come with vitamin k2.
What are the side effects of too much vitamin D?
While it may seem difficult to overdose on the sunshine vitamin, too much big D can actually have a detrimental effect on your health. It’s worth noting that vitamin D overdoses are rare and any kind of toxicity from supplements is also very rare. There are some conditions where toxicity in vitamin D may be more common and these include people with the following health issues
- Unregulated metabolism
- Congenital disorders
- Granulomatous disorders
- Here are some signs of vitamin D toxicity that you may want to keep an eye out for.
- High blood levels
- High calcium levels
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastro issues
- Confusion, depression, agitation, and other mental changes
- Kidney problems
Our favorite choice
Before we offer a dozen awesome vitamin D supplements, you should try, we go straight to our favorite. The winner is VEGAN: NutraChamps K2 + D3 Vegan Liquid. We love this supplement as it’s made with high-quality ingredients and comes stacked with a good amount of K2 and D3. It’s also vegan-friendly.
Our Top 12 Vitamin D Supplements You Should Try Today
SOFTGEL: NatureWise Vitamin D3 5000iu
Using a biologically active form of vitamin D that mimics what the human body produces, this supplement is pure sunshine. Gluten-free, small in size, and made with organic olive oil, this vitamin D supplement is super easy to swallow in more ways than one. It’s worth noting that the packaging says bottled in the USA.
CAPSULE: Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil & Vitamin D3
While this brand won’t work for vegans, the Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil & Vitamin D does have plenty of other benefits. Not only has it been certified for sport thanks to its health benefits, but the salmon oil is also sustainably harvested. These capsules come chock full of omega-3s too.
SACHET: Dayli Sunshine Blend
If popping pills and capsules isn’t your thing, a sunny drink may be just the ticket instead. This sachet from Dayli Sunshine Blend brings together vitamin D, turmeric, and lion mane and comes in a peach and mango flavor. Simply mix it into cold water and gulp down. While the health benefits are big, it can taste a little on the sweet side to some people.
CHEWABLE: Nature Made Vitamin D3 Chewable
Nature Made also does a chewable tablet for those who prefer to chew and go when it comes to their vitamin D intake. Flavored to make it more palatable and made in the USA with the highest quality ingredients, you can enjoy a daily 1000 IU boost. It’s worth reading the label as there are other ingredients inside these tablets
NO SUGAR: Nordic Naturals Zero Sugar Vitamin D3 Gummies
Sugar-free gummies that bring a hit of 1000 IU of vitamin D, these Nordic Naturals come in a wild berry taste and are non-GMO, gelatin free, and vegetarian friendly. The fact that these gummies are sugar-free and have no artificial flavorings is also a big benefit.
HIGH DOSE: NOW Foods D3 10,000 IU
For those who need an extra high dose of vitamin D, this supplement from Now Foods comes in at a whopping 10,000 IU. These soft gel tablets also have no GMO and are sugar-free, dairy-free, and made without gluten. They are made with gelatin though so not good for vegans.
SUSTAINABLE: Care/of The Sunny D3
If you don’t want to have to remember to pick up your vitamin D tablets, a subscription service from Care /of may be exactly what you are looking for. These sustainable tablets harness the power of D3 (easy for the body to absorb) and as an added benefit they are also vegan friendly as the D3 comes from algae.
VEGAN: NutraChamps K2 + D3 Vegan Liquid
Making the most of that K2 and D3 link, this 3-in-1 formula is a great way to boost your vitamins with the ease of a tasteless liquid form. Vegans will also be glad to know that this product is fully vegan-friendly. Made from lichen and sunflower and with 5000 IU of vitamin D and 100 mcg of both vitamin K2 (MK 4 and 7), Nutrachamps knows how to call on the synergy of nature for feel-good vibes.
WOMEN: Ritual Essential for Women 18+
Rather than being a straight-up vitamin D supplement, Ritual Essential for Women hits a fair few marks thanks to its inclusive use of additional nutrients and is a great multivitamin. You can expect vitamin D, vitamin B12, Omega 3s, folate, iron, vitamin E and K2 among others. Available on a subscription service for those who want to keep it simple and with beadlet in oil technology, these vitamins are also vegan-friendly, sugar-free, and come without anything artificial woven in.
PRENATAL: FullWell Prenatal Vitamin
Considered one of the most complete prenatal all-in-one vitamins out there, this offering from FullWell comes with a heap of vitamin D (4000 IU), not to mention folate, B12, chelated minerals, and bioavailable nutrients too. The only thing it may be missing is iron so if you are low on this, you may want to take that separately. The only issue that can be a little intimidating about these vitamins is the fact that you need to take 8 a day.
KIDS: Carlson Labs Kid’s Super Daily D3 + K2
It’s common for kids to be low on their vitamin D too which is why getting a child-friendly supplement is a great idea to up their daily dose. A great version comes from Carlson Labs offering doses in 1000 IU complete with vitamin K2 and D3. With no added sugar and a vegetarian-friendly set-up, these vitamins are safe and convenient especially as they can be doled out in drop form.
BABIES: Mommy’s Bliss Organic Drops
Baby-friendly vitamin D can be found in Mommy’s Bliss Organic Drops. Organic and made in the USA, these drops come with nothing artificial, not a drop of sugar, and are free from eight of the major allergens out there. With 400 IU of liquid vitamin D and just needing one drop a day, topping up your little ones’ sunshine vibes has never been simpler.
What’s your vitamin D story? Do you feel like your natural stock is running low? And is so – which vitamin D supplements do you love? If you feel like you may have a vitamin D deficiency don’t be shy about reaching out to your healthcare professional. Checking your blood levels of vitamin D and getting on a plan to take dietary supplements along with getting a good vitamin d3 supplement can truly have a positive impact on your health and well-being.
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