Boost your body’s defences with the sunshine vitamin, even when summer’s taking a break, with the best vitamin D supplements
Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, because our bodies create it when our skin is exposed to the sun’s UVB rays. The challenge we have here in the UK is getting enough sun to keep our reserves fully topped up – and you may not be surprised to hear that one in five people across the British Isles lacks the required levels of vitamin D. So why not add a little sunshine to your diet with our pick of the best Vitamin D supplements?
Talking of supplements, we do get a small amount of the vitamin from food, such as oily fish, but 90% or more of our vitamin D needs to come directly from the sun. And make no mistake, it really is an essential nutrient for the human body: it boosts your immune system and helps to maintain strong bones and teeth, and too little of it can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain (osteomalacia) in adults. It’s one of the vitamins we’re now officially advised to take as a daily supplement.
Skip ahead to find out which vitamin D supplements we recommend, or read on for more tips on choosing the right type and dosage for you and your family.
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Best vitamin D supplement: At a glance
How to choose the best vitamin D supplement for you
Who should take vitamin D supplements?
We all should. According to the NHS website, the Department of Health recommends that everyone takes a daily supplement containing at least 10 micrograms (10μg) of vitamin D.
Some products use “international units” (iu) on their labels instead of micrograms. One microgram equals 40iu, so this time the minimum daily dose is 400iu.
Higher doses are recommended for certain people:
- Babies up to one year old can have up to 25μg a day.
- Children aged one to ten can have up to 50μg a day.
- Anyone who doesn’t get much exposure to the sun – such as people who work indoors, or are housebound, or who tend to cover up when they go outdoors – will be short of vitamin D, and will need more than the Department of Health’s recommended minimum of 10μg per day.
- People with dark hair and skin don’t naturally absorb as much vitamin D as light-skinned people, so supplements are important.
- People over the age of 65 are also more likely to need vitamin D supplements, to protect bone health and immune systems.
You can have too much of a good thing, though. More than 100μg (4,000iu) of vitamin D a day can, in time, cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can actually weaken the bones, and also damage the kidneys and the heart. None of the supplements in our rundown is more than 100μg per day.
What’s the difference between vitamin D3 and D2?
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble form of vitamin D, and it’s the type we produce when exposed to sunlight. Both D3 and D2 are beneficial, but vitamin D3 has shown to be twice as effective as D2. Nearly all the vitamin D supplements you can buy are vitamin D3 (including a few wrongly labelled as vitamin D2 on Amazon).
Are vitamin D supplements vegan-friendly?
Vitamin D3 is usually derived from animal sources such as lanolin (a waxy substance taken from sheep’s wool). To make vitamin D3 vegan-friendly, some manufacturers have turned to plant-based sources such as lichen. We’ve included a vegan vitamin D3 supplement in our recommendations: Boots Vegan Vitamin D3.
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The best vitamin D supplements to buy
1. BetterYou Dlux 1000 Vitamin D Oral Spray: Best vitamin D oral spray
Price: £5.25 (15ml/100 doses) | Buy now from Boots
A minty spray that you pump under your tongue may not be the first image that springs to mind when you think of vitamin D supplements, but an oral spray is an efficient way to deliver a nutrient to your bloodstream.
It’s really easy to use, and it tastes quite nice, too – not too strong. Pump the spray once each day under your tongue or against the inside of your cheek, where the blood vessels are really close to the surface, and a plume of micro-droplets delivers a 25μg dose of vitamin D rapidly into your system.
At just over a fiver for more than three months’ supply, it’s also pretty good value. But as with most vitamin D supplements, the source of vitamin D3 is lanolin (from sheep’s wool), so it’s not suitable for vegans.
Key specs – Type: Oral spray; Strength: 1,000iu/25μg; Size: 15ml; Daily doses: 100; Vegan: No
2. Nu U Max Strength Vitamin D3: Best vitamin D gel capsules
Price: £9 (365 tablets) | Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy
Oil-based gel capsules are generally agreed to be the second most nutritionally efficient way of taking vitamin D3, after a spray. This is because vitamin D3 is liposoluble (dissolves in oil), so oil capsules deliver the nutrient more efficiently than a tablet.
As well as being fast absorbing, these sunflower oil capsules are easy to swallow and gentle on the stomach, and you get a full year’s supply in a single bottle. However, they’re not suitable for vegetarians or vegans, because their soft shell is made from bovine gelatine.
If you’d rather opt for a lower-strength vitamin D supplement over the summer months, Amazon has the 1000iu (25μg) version of these capsules for £12.
Key specs – Type: Gel capsule; Strength: 3000iu/75μg; Size: 365 tablets; Daily doses: 365; Vegan: No
3. Incite Max Strength Vitamin D3: Best value high-strength vitamin D tablets
Price: £7 (400 tablets) | Buy now from Amazon
Coming in at under 2p per tablet, these tiny 6mm pills pack a massive vitamin D3 punch into an extremely affordable package, and they’re super easy to swallow, with no aftertaste. They contain the highest dose of vitamin D you should take per day, so if you enjoy the sunshine you may need a lower dose over the summer months. That said, the vitamin D content of tablets like these may not absorb quite as efficiently as that from a spray or gel capsule.
Incite Vitamin D tablets are made in the UK using non-GMO ingredients and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, but they’re not vegan. The company offers a full refund “if our vitamin tablets aren’t right for you, or you are unsatisfied for any reason”, which can’t be bad.
Key specs – Type: Tablet; Strength: 4,000iu/100μg; Size: 400; Daily doses: 400; Vegan: No
4. Boots Vegan Vitamin D3: Best vitamin D supplement for vegans
Price: £6 (90 tablets) | Buy now from Boots
The only vegan vitamin D supplement in our rundown, Boots’ 25μg tablets use easily absorbed vitamin D3 sourced from perennial plants. The tablets are small enough to swallow comfortably, and you get three months’ worth for £6.
Key specs – Type: Tablet; Strength: 25μg; Size: 90 tablets; Daily doses: 90; Vegan: Yes
5. A to K Junior D Vitamin Oral Spray: Best vitamin D spray for kids
Price: £5.98 (15ml/30doses) | Buy now from Amazon
Kids will love the blueberry flavour of this once-a-day oral spray, and parents will appreciate that it’s free from sugar and sweeteners, as well as being modest enough in its fast-absorbing vitamin D content (10μg) to be safe for children.
Be assured that it does contain vitamin D3, not vitamin D2 as mentioned in a couple of places on the Amazon listing, and contains 30 measured daily doses.
Some buyers report that the spray is “hit and miss” and doesn’t come out in quite the same quantity every time, so it can be hard to know if the kids have had their full dose.
Key specs – Type: Oral spray; Strength: 10μg; Size: 15ml; Daily doses: 30; Vegan: No