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The Best Time to Take Vitamin D for Maximum Absorption, According to Health Experts

When it comes to the supplement aisle, multivitamins, omega-3s and probiotics might score more shelf real estate. However, if that multi doesn’t come with a dose of vitamin D, your doctor might recommend adding another pill to your routine.

Roxana Ehsani, M.S., RD, CSSD, a Miami-based board-certified sports dietitian, explains that vitamin D is one of four fat-soluble vitamins (A, E and K are the others). It’s also a hormone our body creates after being exposed to the sun, playing “many important roles in our body,” adds Ehsani. These include supporting your immune system, muscle and nerve function, your body’s ability to absorb calcium and more.

Even though vitamin D is critical for overall health, research suggests that an estimated 25% of Americans are deficient in it.1 This could be because there are few food sources of vitamin D, and many people don’t see sunshine during winter, live in regions with limited sunlight, and/or keep their skin covered while al fresco.

The average adult’s recommended Daily Value of vitamin D is 20 micrograms (800 IU or international units)2. For reference, one egg and a 3-ounce can of tuna each have above 1 mcg, 3 ounces of sockeye salmon delivers around 12 mcg, and 3 ounces of trout offers around 14 mcg.3456 Unless you’re taking a spoonful of cod liver oil (34 mcg) or eating salmon or trout daily,7 it can be challenging to meet that mark only through food since most food sources of vitamin D offer small amounts.

In the U.S., people get most of their dietary vitamin D from fortified milk, which contains 100 to 150 IU per 8-ounce serving. But you’d need to drink a quart or more of milk daily to reach the DV—and milk consumption has been declining in recent years, a factor that some experts cite when discussing increased vitamin D deficiency.8

That’s why many people take a vitamin D supplement. However, you want to make sure not only that you’re taking the right amount but also that your body is absorbing it properly. Read along to learn when to take your vitamin D supplement and what factors you should consider.

Factors to Consider

Health Conditions

First, several conditions can influence an individual’s vitamin D levels (or needs). These include osteoporosis or osteopenia, depression, kidney or liver disease and having a family history of neurological conditions, to name a few.

According to David Davidson, M.D., a cardiologist with Endeavor Health Medical Group in greater Chicago, it’s especially important for “people with absorption issues, like inflammatory bowel disease or post gastric bypass surgery,” to work with their doctors to dial in their dose and receive personalized guidance about when to take vitamin D.

Body size can also alter absorbency and dosing, so be sure to ask your doctor for an individual recommendation before you set off to shop for supplements—and start taking vitamin D.

Individual Preference

Regardless of why you’re including a vitamin D supplement in your regimen, it’s important to consider when you can remember to take it. It might sound obvious, but it’s difficult to reap all the health benefits of vitamin D if you forget to take it most of the time.

Many people do well by “habit stacking” or pairing the routine of taking vitamin D with something else they do daily on autopilot. Keep this in mind as you consider when to take your supplements.

Ehsani shows how to put this into practice: “If you always brush your teeth in the morning after breakfast, for instance, can you place your vitamin D supplements next to your toothbrush to remind you to take it each day?”

Dietary Habits

Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it’s wise to pair it with a meal that includes high-fat foods, such as avocado, nuts, seeds, full-fat dairy and fatty seafood, to maximize absorption.

Type of Vitamin D

There are two types of vitamin D: D2 and D3. UV-grown plants, fungi and fortified foods deliver D2, while we get D3 from sunlight and animal-based ingredients.

While both are important and beneficial, vitamin D3 is more bioavailable than vitamin D2.2 This means that your body uses vitamin D3 more efficiently, so you might need a higher dose of vitamin D2 to achieve the same effects as you might with a supplement that includes just D3.

Before starting any new supplement regimen, talk to your healthcare provider about the best form of vitamin D for you. And if you already take a vitamin D supplement, confirm with them that you’re taking the right form.

Morning vs. Evening

We’ll cut to the chase: According to the current scientific consensus, Ehsani and Davidson agree that it doesn’t matter what time of the day you take your vitamin D supplement.

Many people find it handy to take supplements in the morning before the day sweeps them away. Others like to store them in a drawer near the kitchen cleaning supplies to pop after tidying up after dinner. It shouldn’t make a substantial difference in absorption rates whether you swing to one side or the other, although it’s easiest to remember if you pick one time and stick with it.

With or Without Meals

“The timing of when to take the vitamin D supplement shouldn’t matter, but it should be taken with food,” Davidson confirms. “Because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, food, specifically healthy fats, will help with the absorption of vitamin D.”

For example, if you tend to have almond butter toast each morning, “consider taking it with that meal, as almond butter contains healthy fats,” Ehsani advises. Or, if you like to serve dinner with a side salad topped with a handful of walnuts and drizzled with a vinaigrette, take your vitamin D before you sit down to dig in.

“It may be impractical for you to take it with meals if you eat a majority of your meals away from home and can’t realistically carry the vitamin D supplement with you everywhere you go,” Ehsani acknowledges.

So, if that’s not a realistic proposition, tell your doctor about your schedule and when you think it might better fit, and ask for their runner-up recommendation.

Is There a Best Time?

As with any new medication or supplement, it’s important to check with your health care provider to determine the best time for you. As a general rule, though, “the ‘best’ time is what works best for you,” Ehsani says.

Ideally, you’ll take your vitamin D supplement with a meal or snack that includes a source of fat. But if that strategy feels challenging to stick with or if you notice any nausea, constipation, noticeable appetite shifts or other adverse symptoms after taking your supplement at that time of day, be sure to chat with your doctor.

The Bottom Line

The best time to take a vitamin D supplement is when it fits well into your day—and when you can remember to take it.

When choosing a vitamin D supplement, consider opting for vitamin D3 over D2 so your body can use it more efficiently. Additionally, Ehsani and Davidson confirm that, ideally, you should take your vitamin D supplement with a meal that contains fat to help with absorption.

For instance, if you like to take vitamin D first thing in the morning, well before you typically eat breakfast, or prefer to pop your supplements just before bed, think about doing so with a handful of nuts or a spoonful of nut butter, Ehsani says. That way, you’ll enjoy two wellness wins in one: better vitamin D absorption and all the legitimate health benefits of nuts.

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