Let’s make more and let’s make it bigger. That’s the American way. Bigger cars. Bigger houses. Bigger burgers. You name it. And we even do it with our fruits and vegetables. Farmers are constantly on the lookout for ways to yield more crops and bigger produce, but experts say our fruits’ and vegetables’ abilities to uptake nutrients may not have kept up with the growth of these items.
Translation: the apple you bite into today may not be as nutritious as one your great-great grandparent enjoyed. That’s an issue we face with seemingly pure and whole foods like onions and grapes. Imagine how bad the nutrient profiles become when you’re talking about processed foods? By the time foods are processed, they’ve gone through so much that research says the nutrients simply can’t remain intact.
We eat food to have calories that turn into fuel, sure, but food can and should do a lot more for our bodies, too. It is literally nature’s medicine. The vitamins and minerals we should get from our food each play specific roles, like improving heart health, boosting vision, bettering circulation, and so much more. So what happens when every morsel of food you put in your mouth contains only a fraction of the nutrients you think it does? You may start to suffer the consequences through declining health. In today’s society, unless you live on a compound where all you consume is the organic food you grow yourself, you simply need to take vitamins. Here are some you should start taking today if you haven’t already.
Here’s one you don’t hear much about but is picking up steam in the supplement industry. Coenzyme Q10 is very similar to vitamin K. It’s a strong antioxidant, and it helps in the healthy formation of Adenosine triphosphate, which nearly every cell in our body needs. It can also improve blood oxygenation and can be found in foods such as liver, spinach, shellfish, and beans. Some of those foods are popular – some aren’t, or are just too pricey to add to your regular grocery list, so you can see how it’s hard to get enough of this vitamin from food. Healthy adults can take 90–200 mg of this per day.
You’ll likely get your Omega-3 from fish oil capsules, and from food, you’d find it in things like (of course) fish, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds. Omega-3 is good for your heart, brain, vision, and even your emotions as it’s been found to help fight depression and anxiety. However, fish oil capsules shouldn’t be used in place of depression medication – they can be used as a complementary treatment, and fortunately have no recorded side effects. They can taste – you guessed it – a bit fishy, and they can smell, but there are many brands that make low-odor, tasteless varieties to help them go down smoother.
Here’s another one you don’t hear a lot about, but should. Iodine is a natural mineral found in the earth’s soil and ocean. Iodine is important for everyone but especially important for pregnant women as it plays a role in the healthy brain development of a fetus. Adults who are low on iodine can experience swelling in the neck, an enlarged thyroid, constipation, fatigue, confusion, and other serious symptoms. It can be found in some foods like seafood and seaweed (remember it comes from the sea), but you’re probably most familiar with it from your table salt. Healthy adults can take 140 micrograms per day.
An estimated 10 million Americans have an iron deficiency. It’s one nutrient that’s easy to let slip through our fingers. We get it in food like leafy greens (which you probably don’t eat enough of) and red meat (which you may have cut back on). It’s also found in beans and some fortified cereals. When you’re low on it, you can get headaches, shortness of breath, dry hair and skin, fatigue, and more. It can also lead to anemia. Men over the age of 18 should have at least 8.7 mg of iron a day and women over that age should get 14.8 mg – yes, women have a much higher need for the stuff. Keep in mind that iron supplements can be rough on the stomach, but luckily some companies make gentle iron for this very reason.
Magnesium is the magical little supplement that many people don’t know about. You know about your need for vitamin C and calcium, but perhaps you didn’t know just how critical magnesium was to an overall feeling of wellbeing. It plays a role in healthy muscle function, a healthy nervous system, bone health, digestion, blood pressure, and even blood sugar levels. Men typically need around 400 mg a day and women need around 300. Taking some at bedtime can actually help you sleep better, and may result in an easier bowel movement when you wake in the morning. Don’t take more than the recommended amount, as that can cause diarrhea.
There’s been heightened attention to vitamin D recently since research has come out stating that those who have sufficient amounts are less likely to become infected with COVID-19. But it should have always been on the medical community’s radar, and especially the Black community’s radar, as other studies have found vitamin D deficiency is more common in Black women than white women, and is associated with a higher risk of aggressive breast cancer. The recommended amount for healthy women between the ages of 14 and 70 is 600 International Units per day. In addition to getting vitamin D from supplements, and some foods like fortified dairy products and fish, we get it from sunlight, but with many individuals spending their entire days inside, it’s common to be low on it.
Biotin has long been a popular vitamin used in hair loss prevention products. The jury is still out on whether or not it actually plays a role in the risk of hair loss, but this vitamin B has many important jobs, nonetheless. In addition to helping your body turn food into fuel, it also plays a role in blood sugar management. Adults and teenagers can take between 30 and 100 micrograms per day. This is one you don’t want to overdo it on, since taking too much can have side effects like skin rashes, digestive issues, and even kidney issues
Folate is sort of a blanket term for Vitamin B9—of which there are many. Folate is important for the healthy formation of red blood cells, as well as the development of all cells. Getting enough folate through foods can be difficult, and being deficient on it can lead to anemia. Pregnant and lactating women are at a heightened risk for folate deficiency, but it is an important nutrient for all women. Being low on it can lead to issues like headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Adults should take 400 micrograms of folate per day. Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant can increase their dosage to 1,000 mcg per day – but consult your doctor on the exact amount that’s right for you.
A Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common types of deficiencies, which is no small matter considering that this deficiency can lead to blindness, as well as an increased risk of fatal infections. On a lighter note, being low on this vitamin can also simply lead to annoying issues like acne and dry skin, so there are many reasons to make sure you get enough of it. Vitamin A is found in some foods you probably eat plenty of, like fortified cereals, orange and yellow vegetables and fruit like squash and carrots, and skim milk. The recommended daily amount for healthy adults is 900 micrograms.
You know that you need calcium for strong bones. It’s what your mom used to tell you when she made you drink your milk growing up. Though the jury is still out on this, some members of the medical community believe that eating a diet high in meat protein makes it harder for your body to absorb calcium. But carnivores and herbivores alike must make sure they get enough of this nutrient. It’s not just important for your bones but it also helps with your brain and nerve function, as well as your circulatory system. Healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 50 can take up to 2,500 mg per day. That decreases to 2,000 mg for those 51 and up.