Beginner’s Guide to Essential Vitamins & Minerals
While the majority of your nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, etc) should come from a whole foods diet, most of us can benefit from also including a few basic supplements in our daily routine. Unfortunately, the world of supplements can be pretty daunting, as there is a ton of information out there. Overloading with supplements is generally not a good idea, so figuring out which few to focus on can help simplify the question of which to take, and which to avoid.
Of course, some people will require more specific products if dealing with a condition such as an autoimmune or GI disorder (among many others), but this guide to essential vitamins is a starting point for an overall, healthy individual.
A high-quality multi-vitamin will offer most nutrients that are essential to human health (and that we don’t always get from our food.) Along with vitamins and minerals, many multi’s will also contain amino and fatty acids, and even certain health-promoting herbs.
Especially for those whose dietary history consists of eating a diet of mainly processed/packaged foods and not many fresh fruits and vegetables, boosting the body’s overall nutrient levels with a multivitamin can seriously help. Overtime, an ongoing deficiency can lead to serious health issues, such as anemia (iron), osteoporosis (vitamin D3 and K2), and neural tube defects (folate).
Magnesium is a mineral that most are deficient in, and is almost always safe to supplement with. What’s more, we go through our magnesium stores at a faster rate during times of stress. Given the chronic stress of our modern day society, supplementing with magnesium is essential.
According to one of the world’s leading experts in pain management, Dr. Normal Shealy, “Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency.” He goes on to say that “magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body. A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.”
A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.
Magnesium is a vital mineral in the human body, carrying out over 600 different chemical reactions. Magnesium is a cofactor to the enzymes needed to produce energy, and studies have pointed to low magnesium levels contributing to fatigue.
Out of all nutrients, magnesium places the single most important role in balancing the nervous system. All of our cells hold receptors which allow chemical messengers to enter and exit. One such brain cell receptor is called NMDA, and magnesium is a mineral that largely contributes to its function. With low magnesium levels, we can find ourselves feeling depressed and anxious. Because magnesium helps our body to relax, it can be extremely effective in alleviating the pain and tension caused by tight muscles.
Cod Liver Oil
Sounds delicious, right? Cod liver oil is high in vitamin D, a critical nutrient many are deficient in. It has been shown to be one of the best supplements available for brain health and cognitive function, supporting and potentially helping to treat depression and anxiety. Furthermore, it helps to prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, autoimmune disorders, and possibly even cancer. As if that isn’t enough, it can also support healthy skin, hair and nails, bone and tooth health, and most other conditions where inflammation is the root cause.
Cod liver oil is also the single easiest ways to add heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. One tablespoon contains 2.6 grams of these health-promoting fats, which is more than the RDA (recommended daily intake). It is also pretty much the only good food source of vitamin D3, which anyone living in a non-tropical climate is likely deficient in. If you are deficient in vitamin D3, you are at risk for muscle pain and weakness, fatigue and poor immune health. Unless you are eating more than 1 serving per day of wild salmon, cod liver oil is your best bet to prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Choosing a few basic supplements to begin with doesn’t need to be confusing! Starting with a high-quality multi-vitamin, magnesium and cod liver oil will go a long way in supporting your overall health and preventing future disease. Remember that supplements should never take the place of a healthy diet, but they can definitely help boost your nutrient levels.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.