If you've ever found yourself standing in the supplement aisle of your local health food store or pharmacy, scratching your head and feeling confused, you aren't alone. It can be overwhelming! There are so many different products available from so many different brands that choosing what you need requires a fair bit of research.
Luckily, at BodyRock, we've got you covered!
While it is always best to get your vitamins and minerals from whole food sources, it isn't always possible. This is where supplementation comes in. A short term boosting of these powerful helpers can improve your health, mood, energy levels, and your body's overall performance. But, before we get into specific vitamins and minerals, we need to clear up a few things first!
You can't make an informed decision if you don't know the basic terms, right? So, here goes:
these are organic substances that are necessary for normal cell functioning, growth and development.
These vitamins bind to the fat cells in the stomach and get stored for later use. It is unlikely that you will develop deficiencies in these vitamins. The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K.
All the other vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that they can be absorbed directly by the cell. Any excess that you don't use, gets expelled through your system through urination. Because of this you need to replenish these vitamins more frequently. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamins C, niacin, folic acid, and the four B-complex vitamins.
Minerals contain no carbon molecules so are considered to be inorganic substances. Minerals are necessary for proper functioning and are divided up into two categories: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals your body requires in large doses, while it only needs a small amount of trace minerals.
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RDA stands for recommended daily allowance. This is the average daily intake of vitamins and minerals you need to consume in order to stay healthy and avoid deficiencies. These numbers depend largely on age and gender.
This is for vitamins that do not yet have a set RDA. In those cases, an adequate intake is established.
This is the tolerable upper intake level or the maximum about of a vitamin or mineral that is safe for the average person. To avoid toxicity, it is best to stay below this level.
Popular Supplemented Vitamins and Minerals:
Now the that the language part is out of the way, it is time to get down to the nitty gritty of the vitamins and minerals themselves. Here's the skinny on the most commonly supplemented vitamins and minerals and why you might consider taking them!
Biotin (Vitamin B7):
Biotin is a water-soluble B-complex vitamin that pays a key role in cell growth and metabolism. Deficiencies are rare for this vitamin. You only need about 30 mcg (micrograms) a day. Whole food sources:
cooked salmon, whole grains, eggs and avocados.
Calcium is the macromineral responsible for healthy bones and teeth, blood clotting, nerve signalling, hormone secretion and even blood pressure! It is unlikely that you will get too much calcium in your diet but it is possible to over do it on the supplements. If you get too much, you may develop kidney stones. You only need about 1,000 mg (milligrams) a day. It is best to stay below 2,500 mg. Whole food sources:
dairy milk, cheddar cheese, tofu, bok choy, spinach, and rhubarb.
This trace element is considered essential to your proper functioning. Copper is key in the formation of red blood cells and plays an important role in energy metabolism as well as proper immune functioning. You need 900 mcg but should stay below 10,000 mcg. Whole food sources:
liver, crab meat, oysters, raw mushrooms, and semisweet chocolate.
Folic acid helps pregnant women ensure the healthy development of their babies. Even if you aren't pregnant, folic acid can help you with cellular development and even reduce your risk of heart disease and colon cancer. You need 400 mcg but should stay under 1,000 mcg. Whole food sources:
fortified cereals and grains, asparagus, spinach, orange juice, and lentils.
Magnesium is a macromineral that teams up with calcium to aid proper muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation, blood clotting, and energy metabolism -- among other things. Men need about 400 mg and women require 310 mg. The risk of magnesium toxicity is rare but your supplementation shouldn't exceed 350 mg/day. Whole food sources:
oat bran, almonds, brown rice, cooked spinach, bananas and molasses.
Niacin (Vitamin B3):
Nicacin is essential for converting food into energy. It also boosts the health of your hair, skin, eyes, liver, and red bloods cells while potentially lowering your risk of developing heart disease. While an extreme deficiency in niacin is rare, it is possible to over do it. If you exceed more than 50 mg/day, you may notice yourself turning red as a hot-house tomato. This is known as the "niacin-flush." Men need about 16 mg/day and women need 14 mg. Try not to exceed 35 mg/day. Whole food sources:
peanuts, chicken, salmon, fortified cereals and coffee.
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5):
This is another vitamin with a key role in food metabolism. It helps to synthesize neurotransmitters, red blood cells, and hormones. You only need to get about 5 mg a day and there is no upper limit in this case. Deficiencies are extremely rare and toxicity more or less doesn't exist. Whole food sources:
chicken, eggs, whole grains, mushrooms, sweet potato, avocado, and yogurt.
Potassium is a macromineral that is key to muscle function, nervous system signalling, and a steady heartbeat. It also helps to keep fluid levels in check by assisting the kidneys in saving fluid when dehydrated and excreting it when it reaches excess. A potassium deficiency can lead to muscle weakness and cramping, fatigue, bloating, constipation and abdominal pain.Getting too much can also be problematic. High levels of potassium, usually achieved through supplementation, can cause GI troubles, tingling in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, and abnormal heart rhythms. While an upper limit has yet to be determined, we do know that you need to get 4,700 mg/day. Whole food sources:
baked potatoes, artichokes, plums, raisins, and bananas.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2):
Riboflavin is a pretty incredible water-soluble vitamin. It helps to turn food into energy, aides iron absorption in the intestine, and boosts the health of your hair, skin, eyes, muscles and brain! Men need to consume 1.3 mg/day and women, 1.1 mg/day. An upper limit has not been determined. Whole food sources:
milk, almonds, cheddar cheese, eggs, enriched grains and cereals.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1):
Like the other water-soluble B vitamins, thiamin helps to metabolize your food and increases the health of your hair, skin, muscles and your brain! There has never been an observed case of thiamin toxicity and while deficiencies are rare, they can impact the nervous, cardiovascular, muscular, and gastrointestinal systems in a number of ways. There is no determined upper level but men need 1.2 mg/day and women, 1.1 mg/day. Whole food sources:
milk, lentils, cantaloupe, enriched long grain white rice, and pecans.
This vitamin encourages the growth of red and while blood cells, keeps your immune system humming, rebuilds bone and regulates cell growth. Variations of this vitamin are also used to treat skin conditions like acne. Vitamin A deficencies are rare in the United States but do crop up in developing countries. In these instances, it can cause night blindness (or even complete blindness) and increase susceptibility to infectious diseases. Men require 900 mcg and women, 700 mcg. You should try to stay below 3,000 mcg/day. Whole food sources:
kale, cod liver oil, eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, cantaloupe, mango, and butternut squash.
This vitamin helps to produce seretonin, a hormone that plays a role in your mood, your appetite and your sleep patterns. It also plays a role in your cognitive and immune function while potentially reducing your risk of heart disease. Sometimes, when people supplement this vitamin, they get too much, leading to numbness or pain in the limbs. You only need 1.3 mg/day and should try to stay below 100 mg. Whole food sources:
salmon, chicken, bananas, baked russet potato (with skin), hazelnuts, and cooked spinach.
This water-soluble vitamin helps to metabolize fatty acids and amino acids. B12 deficiencies are common in the elderly and may contribute to memory loss and dementia! You may want to consider supplementing this vitamin if you are a vegetarian or vegan. You need 2.4 mcg a day and no upper limit has been determined. Whole food sources:
clams, mussels, beef, salmon, poached eggs, and milk.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that is key to your immune function and nervous system. It helps increase bone density and is absolutely vital to the metabolization of calcium. While we get vitamin D from good ol' fashion sunshine, it isn't a bad idea to supplement your intake -- especially in the long winter months. A deficiency can lead to an increased risk for osteoporosis! You need 15 mcg/day and should aim to stay below 50 mcg. Whole food sources:
look for foods fortified with vitamin D like cereals and milk. Otherwise, try canned salmon and egg yolks.
An important antioxidant, the majority of Americans do not meet the daily intake requirements. Vitamin E protects lipids from damage, fights free radicals, and maintains the health and integrity of cell membranes. Not getting enough can lead to impaired balance and coordination, muscle weakness, and pain or numbness in the limbs. You need 15 mg/day. Try to stay below 1,000 mg/day. Whole food sources:
olive oil, almonds, avocado, and hazelnuts.
This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for the healing of wounds and the development of bones. Vitamin K helps your blood to clot. But, if you are taking birth control, you should be careful about getting too much K! An excess of vitamin K and the pill can lead to unwanted blood clotting. Deficiencies in vitamin K can lead to bruising easily, excessive bleeding, nose bleeds, and heavy menstrual periods. Men require about 120 mcg/day and women need 90 mcg. An upper level has not been set. Whole food sources:
cooked broccoli, kale, parsley, and Swiss chard.
Zinc is a essential for the building of enzymes, proteins, and cells. It releases vitamin A from the liver and helps to boost the immune system and heal wounds. Zinc toxicity is uncommon but deficiencies do occur in the developing world. Not getting enough can lead to delayed development, cognitive impairment, and a weakened immune system. It is important to note that zinc from vegetable sources is less easily absorbed so if you are a vegetarian or vegan, supplementation may not be a bad idea. Men need 11 mg and women require 8 mg but stay below 40 mg. Whole food sources:
oysters, beef, turkey, milk, and cashews.
As always, before you start a supplementation program, you should consult a health care professional. Take this information with you so that you ask informed questions and find the solutions that work best for you! In the meantime, eat a nutrient rich diet of fresh, whole foods like the one laid out in the BodyRock Meal Plan
! Check it you and give yourself a leg up!
Do you supplement any of these vitamins and minerals? Have you noticed changes in your health because of it? Share your story with us!
, The BodyRock Nutrition Guide