From tablets to drops, here’s how to go about choosing one for your needs

When it comes to shopping for supplements, the choice has never been greater. However, it can be tricky to know which ones you could actually benefit from incorporating into your daily routine.

Vitamin D supplements are among the most popular – but which one is right for you? Here, we take a closer look to find out why this vitamin is so important, what the best food sources are and breakdown the benefits of seeking out a supplement to fit your needs.

What is vitamin D & why is it important?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that the body needs to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are important for healthy bones, muscles and teeth. 

A lack of it can cause vitamin D deficiency. This may lead to bones becoming weaker and softer, conditions such as rickets in children and a type of bone pain called osteomalacia in adults. In the UK, 20% of people have low levels of vitamin D and therefore have an increased risk of poor musculoskeletal health such as rickets, osteomalacia and poor muscle strength.

What are the sources of vitamin D?

The body creates vitamin D mainly by skin exposure to sunlight, or to be more specific, by exposure to ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) from the sun’s rays when outdoors.  

From late March/early April to early September, it’s thought that the majority of people in the UK should be able to make all of the vitamin D that they need from being out in the sun for short periods of time. 

However, skin tone and how much skin you have exposed can affect how vitamin D is made. For example, those with dark skin, such as people of African, African-Caribbean or South Asian origin may need to spend longer in the sun to make the same amount of vitamin D as someone with lighter skin. 

It’s not possible to overdose on vitamin D exposure through sunlight. However, whenever you’re out in the sun, it’s important to wear sunscreen to help protect skin against UV damage and skin cancer. Covering up and wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF15 can both help. 

Sunlight isn’t the only source of vitamin D, though. Levels can also be topped up through food and with the help of a vitamin D supplement.

What foods provide vitamin D?

Sources of vitamin D are oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks. Fortified foods such as some breakfast cereals, fat spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives also have vitamin D added to them.

How much vitamin D do you need per day?

For children over the age of one year and adults (including pregnant and breastfeeding women and those at risk of vitamin D deficiency), NHS guidelines recommend a daily vitamin D intake of 10 micrograms (μg) (or 400IU).

For babies up to the age of one year, the recommendation is 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.

What are the benefits of taking a vitamin D supplement?

Between October and early March, sunlight doesn't contain enough UVB radiation for our bodies to make vitamin D. So vitamin D from food sources is the next best thing. However, it can be difficult to get sufficient levels through diet alone, which is where supplements come in.

The NHS recommends that all adults and children over the age of four years old consider taking a daily supplement with 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the winter months to protect their bone and muscle health.

However, there are certain groups who should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms all year round. This is because they may be more prone to vitamin D deficiency than others. Vitamin D3, the bioavailable form of vitamin D that is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, is the form of vitamin D of choice that helps ensure adequate vitamin D levels are maintained.

Groups who might be more likely to develop vitamin D deficiency include those with specific medical conditions, those who don’t have much exposure to sunlight, and those who have dark skin. It’s worth bearing in mind that some people may have medical conditions that could mean they're not able to safely take as much as others, and so, if in doubt, always check with your GP.

Taking a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms throughout the year is also recommended for children between the ages of one and four years old.

For babies under the age of one, the NHS recommendation is to have a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D all year round if they are breastfed, or formula-fed and having less than 500ml of infant formula (which is already fortified with vitamin D) a day.

What vitamin D supplements are there?

From drops to gummies and tablets, there’s something for everyone.

Here are eight vitamin D supplements to explore. You’ll also love these other great options, too. As with any supplement, before taking any of these please speak to your doctor or pop in store for a chat with your Boots Pharmacy team if you have any questions, especially if you're pregnant, breastfeeding, are taking any medication or have any medical conditions.

Vitamin D supplements for babies

Try: Vitabiotics Wellbaby Vit D Drops 10 µg (£5.50)

• Suitable from birth to four years

• Size: 30ml

• Dosage: Give 0.5ml (10 micrograms of vitamin D) once daily using the syringe provided

• Suitable for vegetarians

• Peanut oil-free

• Alcohol-free

• Salt and yeast-free

• Lactose-free

• No artificial sweeteners, colours or preservatives

This vitamin D supplement for babies and children comes with a handy measuring syringe for easy dosage and use (and minimal tantrums).

Try: Abidec Immune Support (£15)

• Suitable from birth to three years

• Size: 7.5ml

• Dosage: Give five drops daily using the pipette provided

• Sugar-free

• Lactose-free

• Gluten-free

• Preservative-free

• Colourant-free

These vitamin D drops also contain millions of friendly bacteria carefully selected from strains of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Lactobacillus Reuteri.

Try: Baby Ddrops Liquid Vitamin D3 Drops (£10)

• Suitable for infants and young children

• Size: 60 drops (1.7ml)

• Dosage: Give one drop (0.028 ml) every day

• No preservatives, artificial flavours or colouring

Specifically created for breastfed babies, these drops provide great flexibility. Either drop on to the nipple or washed finger or pacifier and allow your baby to suck for at least 30 seconds.

Vitamin D supplements for kids

Try: Vitabiotics Wellkid Peppa Pig Vitamin D (£6.99)

• For ages three to seven years

• Size: 30 soft jellies

• Dosage: Chew one soft jelly per day (10 micrograms of vitamin D)

• No synthetic colours

• No preservatives or lactose
• No salt or yeast
• No artificial sweeteners

With their strawberry flavour and Peppa Pig shape, these brightly coloured jellies make taking vitamins a much more pleasant prospect for your young ones.

Try: Boots Kids Bone Health Vitamin D Gummies (£4)

• Suitable for three years and older

• Size: 30 gummies

• Dosage: Chew one gummy per day (10 micrograms of vitamin D)

These chewable vitamin D gummies also contain vitamins B6 and B12 – and they have a tasty orange flavour, too.

 Vitamin D supplement for pregnant women

Try: Vitabiotics Pregnacare Original (£4.50)

• Size: 30 tablets

• Dosage: Take one tablet per day (10 micrograms of vitamin D)

• Suitable for vegetarians

• Free from preservatives, artificial colours, lactose, yeast and gelatin

• Gluten-free

In addition to vitamin D, this multivitamin also contains 18 other important vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, to support you during your pregnancy.

Vegan vitamin D supplements for adults

Try: Boots Vegan Vitamin D3 (£6)

• Size: 90 tablets

• Dosage: Take one tablet, once a day (25 micrograms of vitamin D)

• Suitable for vegetarians and vegans

• Free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives

• Lactose-free

While most food sources of vitamin D are from animals, this vitamin D3 supplement is plant-sourced so could be worth considering if you follow a vegan diet.

Try: Boots Vitamin D (£2.30)

• Suitable for adults and children aged 12 years and over

• Size: 90 tablets

• Each tablet provides 10 micrograms of vitamin D

• Dosage: take one tablet daily

• Suitable for vegetarians

• Free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives

• Lactose-free

This three-month supply is great to have to hand during the winter months to help top up vitamin D levels when sunlight is sparse, or for all-year round use, if appropriate.

Shop more vitamin D supplements here

For more advice on shopping for supplements, check out our guide to vitamin C supplements and vitamin E supplements.

All prices correct on date of publication