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Vitamin D, D2, and D3: What’s the Difference and How Much Should I Take?

Many people who visit a pharmacy to purchase vitamins and supplements are surprised to be confronted with a variety of different types of vitamin D. The reality is you can’t buy plain vitamin D. Instead, you’ll be given the choice to purchase vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. This leaves many people unsure of what to buy and uncertain whether their purchase will be helpful.


Today, we’ll explain the difference between vitamin D vs D3, and tell you how much you should be taking every day to optimize your health and wellbeing.

What’s the Difference Between Vitamin D, D2 & D3?

To make it easy to understand, let’s break down the difference between vitamin D, vitamin D2, and vitamin D3.


Vitamin D is the vitamin that’s produced by our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Most people get their entire vitamin D supply from sun exposure, but it can also be absorbed from foods like fatty fish, cod liver oil, mushrooms, or yeast.


In the 1920s, scientists discovered the benefits of vitamin D, and within ten years realized that it would be easy to begin fortifying common foods with this vitamin, in order to improve the overall health of the population. Milk was the first food in North America to be fortified with vitamin D, followed shortly after by orange juice, cereals, and soy milk.

Vitamin D2 and D3 are the two synthetically derived forms of vitamin D, which are available for human consumption. Vitamin D2 is derived from plants, while vitamin D3 comes from animal sources like egg yolks and fish oil.


Vitamin D

When it’s produced within your body, vitamin D helps regulate bone growth, promotes the absorption of calcium, and helps your immune system function optimally. 

Most people get their vitamin D from the sun, but if you live in a place that’s further away from the equator or if it’s cloudy often, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement to give your body what it needs. Unlike any form of supplemental or dietary vitamin D, you cannot over-produce vitamin D within your body. If you’ve got enough, your body will slow down production until it’s required in larger amounts again.

Vitamin D2 and D3

Vitamin D2 is produced from plants, and is then synthesized into a convenient form to be consumed by humans. Vitamin D3 is produced from animal sources, then is similarly processed until it’s a capsule, pill, or gummy – whatever form you prefer!


Once it hits your bloodstream, both vitamin D2 and D3 head to the liver to be metabolized. That’s where their paths begin to diverge. The compound that the liver creates using the vitamin D2 or D3 is known as calcifediol.


In several studies, vitamin D3 has been shown to create more calcifediol, raising the body’s overall level faster than vitamin D2. Unless you’re a strict vegan, you should opt for vitamin D3 if the choice is available to you.


How Much Vitamin D Should I Take Daily?

Most healthy adults should strive to maintain an intake of 15mcg (600 IU) of vitamin D daily. In a tropical country, it’s estimated that two half-hour sessions of midday sun every week provides enough vitamin D. However, if you live in a more northerly or cloudy climate, you may want to consider upping your intake of vitamin D-rich foods, or taking a supplement.

What Healthy Foods are High in Vitamins D, D2, and D3?

There are plenty of foods that we eat on a daily basis that are high in all the various forms of vitamin D. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Fatty fish (like salmon or mackerel)
  • Wild mushrooms
  • Cod liver oil
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Fortified milk
  • Fortified orange juice  
  • Cheese

Learn How your Body Metabolizes Vitamin D

Every one of us metabolizes vitamin D differently, depending on the unique needs and processes of our body. Want to find out how your body handles this critical vitamin?


Buy the GenoPalate DNA kit, and sign up to receive a personalized collection of recipes with foods that your body needs to thrive. It’s so much easier to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D when you’re eating a diet that’s been personalized to suit the exact needs of your body.


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