The food we eat today isn’t as nutritionally valuable as it was 50, or even 20 years ago. The soil is depleted of many vitamins and minerals and as a consequence, so is our food.
This is where the supplement industry comes in, offering short-term and long-term solutions in pill and powder form so that they’re easy to take and become a part of your daily routine. And even though it’s always best to do a thorough analysis and find out what micronutrients you’re actually missing out on, there are some general supplement recommendations everyone should benefit from taking.
What Causes Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies?
The lives we lead today are incredibly stressful and cause more vitamin and mineral deficiencies than we think. These are some of the most common culprits:
- Poor diet – The Standard American Diet (SAD) unfortunately showcases how poorly most Americans live, not reaching even the bare minimum of fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain recommended intakes.
- Stress – It can not only impair your body’s ability to absorb micronutrients but also cause chronic inflammation which is the reason for many diseases and medical conditions of today.
- Environmental toxins – There are so many chemicals in the air, water, soil, and a plethora of surfaces we come in contact with throughout our daily life which can all cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Studies show a direct link between pollution and vitamin D deficiency, making it obvious that supplementing is necessary in order to get the vitamin D levels to an optimal level.
One of the most important vitamins almost everyone is deficient in is vitamin D3. Also called the “sunshine vitamin,” its most abundant source is the sun and most people aren’t getting enough daily sun exposure. Additionally, even if they are, the use of sunscreen, no matter how important it is, diminishes the impact of sun rays and the opportunity for vitamin D to get into our cells.
Vitamin D3 is responsible for optimizing a lot of processes in the human body. From improving the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and promoting bone health to boosting the immune system and improving energy and mood. The FDA recommends taking 600 international units (IU) for a healthy male and female between the ages 19 and 70, and 800 IU over for those over the age of 70. Still, this may be different for each individual, but it’s a great place to start. Some people, especially those with an autoimmune disease, might not be getting enough vitamin D even with the recommended 600 IU, so talk to your doctor before taking the step towards increasing your dose.
Most people are struggling with magnesium deficiency as they’re simply not getting enough of it through their food choices. Even more so if their activity levels are higher than average. Magnesium is
in the human body, assisting more than 300 enzymes in performing chemical reactions that lead to muscle repair and build-up, blood sugar regulation, bone and heart health, lowering the blood sugar, as well as the protection of nerve cells.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of magnesium is 400-420 mg daily for men and 310-320 mg for women aged 19 and above. Still, you might need different amounts for everything to run smoothly, especially if you’re an active individual or an athlete.
Another extremely important mineral, zinc is included in a myriad of different functions in the body, from immune function and protein synthesis to wound healing and gene expression. It can mostly be obtained from foods such as oysters, red meat, poultry, nuts and seeds, avocados, and berries. Unfortunately, the amounts we would need to eat on a daily basis far exceed normal eating habits.
The RDA for zinc is 11 mg a day for men and 8 mg for women aged 19 and older. Like with other supplements on this list, each individual might need more or less, depending on their blood analysis.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil is one of the most important dietary supplements everyone should have in their diet. They support cardiovascular health and lower triglyceride levels, improve eye health and brain function, help reduce chronic inflammation, improve skin health and the healing of skin conditions, promote healthy growth and development during pregnancy and breastfeeding, improve symptoms of depression, and so much more.
As the name says, omega-3 fatty acids are mostly obtained from fish, so you’d have to eat plenty on a daily basis to take the recommended amounts. You can also get them from nuts and seeds, plant oils, and some fortified foods. The main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while the omega-3 in plant sources is mainly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
The RDA for omega-3 fatty acids isn’t really established, except for ALA (1.6 g for men and 1.1 g daily for women aged 18 and older). Since you can’t really go overboard, whatever is listed on a good fish oil supplement is a great place to start.
The health benefits of vitamin B12 are vast, and they include forming red blood cells, promoting gene expression, and optimizing the function of brain and nerve cells. They are mostly found in animal foods, so those following a vegan diet have no other choice but to supplement.
Vitamin B12 is extremely important during pregnancy and breastfeeding as it helps promote healthy growth and development of the fetus, preventing spina bifida and other potential defects of the central nervous system.
If you’re not eating plenty of foods from animal sources, supplementing with B12 is probably something you should pay attention to. The RDA is 2.4 mg for both, men and women aged 14 and over.
Maybe the most abundant vitamin in nature, vitamin C is vital for health and longevity. It helps boost the immune system and protect against heart disease, fights inflammation, supports a healthy brain function, keeps the blood vessels clean and flowing, promotes collagen formation, and helps keep blood pressure levels in their optimal range.
It can be found in many healthy foods such as citruses, bell peppers, berries, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, and more. The RDA in adults aged 19 and older is 90 mg daily for men and 75 mg for women, but given the way people eat, they’re not meeting even these small daily amounts.
Therefore, supplementation is necessary. Still, it’s important to note that one can definitely go overboard with vitamin C. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects on health. For vitamin C, it’s 2000 mg daily.
Another important supplement that doesn’t fall under vitamins and minerals is a combination of probiotics that has a role in feeding the gut microbiome. It helps not only promote the health of the digestive system but also increases the absorption rate of all vitamins and minerals, whether taken from food or as dietary supplements.
Probiotics are a combination of different strains of live bacteria, with the most common being Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, Salivarius, and Bacillus. They can be found in fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled cucumbers, and more.
Although each person requires a different mix of bacteria strains in their probiotic supplement, it’s better to take some, even a generic brand, than none. Unfortunately, our diet isn’t as versatile as it should be in order for all of these beneficial bacteria to grow, thrive, and promote the health of our entire system. Taking a supplement will definitely help replenish some of your gut microbiota and work towards improving your digestive health, heart health, bone health, hormone health, and every other aspect of your overall wellness and wellbeing.
Due to poor diet, stress, and many environmental toxins, people are definitely not taking enough essential nutrients to optimize their overall health and longevity and protect themselves from diseases and chronic inflammation. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are becoming more and more common and dietary supplements have become a necessity.
High-quality dietary supplements offer a plethora of health benefits, helping tackle everything from vitamin D deficiency and intaking enough B vitamins to boosting the immune system and being that barrier of protection against a number of serious health conditions.
That being said, always consult with your primary physician or naturopath before starting a new supplement as your daily needs may drastically differ from the RDA or what’s written on the supplement bottle.