A Comprehensive Look at the Vitamins You Really Need.

When I wrote this article I had to decide exactly which direction to go in regards to the degree of importance of each nutrient and who this article would benefit the most.  No easy task.

I could have chosen to focus on older adults, teenagers, bodybuilders and athletes or tried to pick out a particular health condition and base my thoughts on that.

In the end, I chose to focus on the 10 most common nutrients that the most people are just not getting enough of, regardless of the reason. With this in mind, I felt this could help more people with just a single post. With one exception.

Because Potassium is so important for so many health functions including the heart, and because many know so little of it’s benefits, I decided to devote an entire article about how most people are just not getting enough of this essential mineral.

The most common reason we are not getting these essential nutrients is the quality of our diets, the depletion of nutrients in our soils, and the lack of knowledge of what is really good for us. BOB REYNOLDS

The most common reason we are not getting these essential nutrients is the quality of our diets, the depletion of nutrients in our soils, and the lack of knowledge of what is really good for us. We can also add to that the vast differences of opinions, usually from conflicting “studies” and people selling their new products or instant fixes.  No wonder we have a problem.

You should look into these top 10 supplements first in your quest for optimal health.

You will learn in this article:

  • What vitamins are important for your health
  • What amounts the experts suggest
  • Where to get further information
  • What food you should try to eat
  • Symptoms of Deficiency
  • Therapeutic vs RDA Recommendations

Magnesium – Are You Deficient In This Essential Mineral?

I’m starting with Magnesium for a good reason. Not only is it a tremendously essential nutrient, but MOST OF US DON’T GET ENOUGH!

Some recent studies in the United States found that many are getting only half of the recommended daily amounts. And depending on who is doing the study, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent (1) of the US Population is lacking Magnesium.

Over the years this mineral has gained popularity, not only as a household name, but also in the medical community including hospitals treating cardiac patients.

Over 35 years ago I was admitted to the emergency room with very rapid heartbeat which ended up the start of a lifelong struggle with atrial fibrillation. I was surprised that one of the first things they gave me was an IV with magnesium.  This hospital was definitely ahead of others with this valuable technique.

Even with medication, if I don’t take a high therapeutic dose on a daily basis, I can absolutely feel the difference.

Fast forward to 2019 and I have found that even rural doctors and hospitals FINALLY are using this simple treatment to help people with cardiac episodes.

Good Food Sources of Magnesium
The foods that are high in magneium displayed in a group on a table

What Is Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is found commonly in nature, including plants, animals, the soil and the ocean. It is involved in over 600 enzymatic activities in the body(2)  No wonder it is so vital to life and good health.

Magnesium Is Involved With:

  • Energy Production
  • Proper function of nerves and muscles
  • Blood Sugar
  • Blood Pressure
  • Bone Development
  • Gene Maintenance
  • Production of Proteins
  • Brain Health
  • Heart Health
  • And much more…

Health Conditions Treated with Magnesium:

  • Heart Attacks, Arrhythmia, and Coronary Artery Disease
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Anxiety Attacks
  • Migraines and Headaches
  • Depression
  • Asthma
  • Athletic Performance
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Alcoholism
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Eclampsia and Pre-Eclampsia
  • Constipation

As you can see we could write an entire book on the benefits and importance of Magnesium. This is why it is so important to make sure we get enough of this nutrient from good quality foods and supplements.

Why We Are Lacking in Magnesium

Like so many other vitamins and nutrients, the amount of this mineral in food sources is declining.  Add to that our bad eating habits.  Even if you are in relatively good health, we are setting ourselves up for a deficiency.

Then if you have certain health conditions, you might need much more than the average person.

Examples are:

  • People Dealing with Alcoholism
  • Our Aging Population
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases or Conditions like Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Kidney Failure
  • Taking Certain Medications

How Much Magnesium You Should Have Per Day

Below I will outline that the “official” nutritional guidelines are as well as a range of amounts of Magnesium that could be considered as an “Ultimate” or “Therapeutic” dose.

As always consult with your physician (like they will know…don’t get me started!) or a good Nutritionist or Naturopathic Doctor.

And of course, depending on your needs, age, medical condition you might need more or less.

Chart with the recommended daily allowandes RDA of Magneium

*Adequate Intake (AI)

One good example of needing higher doses of Magnesium are those with heart problems like Atrial Fibrillation.  Problems like this really increase the need for both Magnesium and Potassium on a regular basis.  I can tell when I’m not getting enough and try to maintain a daily intake of at least 800 mg (elemental) of a good form of Magnesium.

I must point out that you will want to make sure when reading about amounts of this mineral, that you are comparing apples to apples.

When looking at  MANY supplement ingredient lists you might only see for example that each supplement contains for example 200 mg.  If they don’t specify what that means, you could be buying something with far less Magnesium that you intended.

Real Life Example of  Elemental or Total Magnesium:

A current bottle of magnesium I’m taking has in the mix several good forms of Magnesium. One of those forms is in the way of Magnesium Glycinate.  Although it says the amount is 491 mg the ACTUAL total amount of Magnesium is just 70 mg. What a difference!

This is how the average person can easily be confused and buy a brand they think is enough for their needs but in reality they could be getting much less, and therefore getting poor results.

Tip: When buying and calculating the amount of Magnesium and other minerals be sure you are using the Total Magnesium or the Total Elemental amounts in each supplement.

The Best Foods High in Magnesium

  • Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Whole Grains
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Legumes
  • Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Green Beans
  • Artichokes
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Tofu

The Best Forms of Magnesium

  • Magnesium Glycinate
  • Magnesium Threonate
  • Magnesium Malate
  • Magnesium Taurate
  • Magnesium Orotate

Worst Forms of Magnesium

  • Magnesium Oxide ( poorly absorbed – found in cheap brands)
  • Magnesium Carbonate
  • Magnesium Sulfate
  • Magnesium Aspartate
  • Magnesium Citrate (for constipation and Colonoscopy Prep)

Vitamin D

This vitamin has been in the news a lot for quite some time now. Hard to believe that the main stream media and even “Doctors” say it’s needed and good for you…go figure!

It’s becoming more and more obvious that everyone needs this, but what I’ve found is perhaps WHY many still have low blood levels even with “normal” supplementation.

Recommendations that we just need to get out in the sun a bit more contradict what some physicians have seen in their clinics. You will be surprised to read in a following section how sun exposure have different levels of effectiveness.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D or also known as Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) is a fat soluble vitamin. It’s important to have enough as this nutrient for the many roles it plays including Calcium absorption.

Some examples:

  • Great for the Immune System
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Building Strong Bones (Osteoporosis)
  • Healthy Nervous System
  • Asthma
  • Cancer (Breast, Colon, and Prostrate)
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Depression
  • Weight Gain
  • Preventing Autism
  • Diabetes
Good Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D infographic showing which natural foods are helpful

Why We Are Lacking In Vitamin D

Factors That Could Lower Your Vitamin D Levels

  • Digestion Problems
  • Kidneys Not Processing Vitamin D Properly
  • Dark Skin
  • Being Overweight
  • Lack of Sun Exposure

How Much Vitamin D You Should Have Per Day

This is definitely one of those “one size DOESN’T fit all’ kind of things.  As you will read, many factors come into play and certain stereotypes need to be broken.

Sun Exposure Doesn’t Always Work.

At least that was the case with one patient my doctor had. He was treating a young man that worked out in the hot sun all day with his shirt off and couldn’t be tanner but still was low in Vitamin D.

And I can hear at this point some of you knowing that darker skin does not absorb as much Vitamin D and saying that this is the reason for his low levels. But when you consider he was outside ALL DAY that should have more than overcompensated for his tan.

After his blood test, and even after adding Vitamin D to his daily routine, he was STILL low in vitamin D. How could that be?

Look at the standard protocol in many countries. Just take 1000 I.U.’s of D per day and call me in the morning. Is that enough? That would be great if that were the truth, but then why are some still testing low when following up with a blood test?

I personally take 5000 I.U. per day and “just barely” get my blood levels into the upper half of the scale. My sister with the same dose does worse. That’s 5 times the “standard” dose!

Good doctors will keep adjusting upwards the daily dose until optimal levels are reached. Sometimes that is way over the current belief that you will be fine with 1,000 I.U.’s per day.

 

Bottom Line: Get tested and find a good doctor.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough?  Signs of Deficiency.

Sometimes there are little to no obvious symptoms. You might be a bit tired, weak, or have some general discomfort or bone pain. But because these symptoms are sometimes vague or even non-existent, you must get a proper blood test to know where you stand.

Why Type of Vitamin D Supplement Should I Take?

When looking for any supplement, you should always pick a brand you trust or that has a reputation of providing quality products. You are also looking for the bottle to say: Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) which is the best type to get.

I also recommend sticking with a brand that you trust to be of good quality to make sure you are getting what you paid for.

Fish Oil | Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There is a good possibility that you have already tried this popular supplement from all the media coverage of the numerous benefits Fish Oil can provide. Even though Fish Oil or more importantly Omega 3 Fatty Acids are one of the most popular supplements on the market, I’ll bet most of you don’t take it on a consistent basis nor at the doses that will do the most good.

Below you will learn how this should be one of your “go to” nutrients for Optimal Health.

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Many people know or at least have heard about Fish Oil being good for you. But just using the term by itself is a bit misleading on exactly what the important components of fish oil are and which ones have the most benefit.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, an essential fat that your body can’t make. These are the good fats that you want to ensure you get as they have many important benefits including reducing inflammation.

Across the board Omega-3s have been know to benefit people of all ages and numerous health conditions. The main ingredients of fish oil, both EPA and DHA have been associated with fetal development, cardiovascular function, and Alzheimer’s disease. (4)

Components of Fish Oil Supplements

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

  • EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid)
  • DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
  • ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid)

EPA

Is a precursor to DHA and a valuable nutrient for good health. Some of the benefits include:

  • Joint Health – Relieving pain and stiffness
  • Heart Support – Reduces blood clotting, keeps arteries flexible, Good Circulation
  • Children’s Brain Development
  • Losing Weight – Helps burn fat before it is stored

DHA

DHA has high concentrations in the brain, retina, and your skin. It’s many benefits include:

  • Cardiovascular Support – Circulation
  • Eye Health – Retina and aging effects
  • Helps Control Cholesterol Levels
  • May Help Memory

ALA

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) which should not to be confused with Alpha-Lipoic Acid which by the way is a very good antioxidant, is a plant based Omega 3 Fatty Acid. It has been used to benefit conditions like:

  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Reverse Atherosclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Dry Eyes

How Much Omega 3 Should We Have Per Day?

When comparing products each fish oil capsule will indicate several criteria. A common amount is 1000 I.U. per capsule. But, that does not tell you the whole story. Each pill will contain in this case 1000 International Units of “Fish Oil” but each brand might vary as to how much EPA and DHA they contain.

Right now there are no recommended amounts to take. That said, when adding up the total amounts of DHA and EPA you should at least try to get 250-500 mg per day for adults.

Also note that the manufacturer might describe the total amount of DHA and EPA as “Omega-3 Marine Triglycerides” which is the “good stuff”.

For therapeutic doses, recommendations can include taking as many as 3-5 capsules three times per day. For example one brand recommends up to 15 per day, and with each capsule having 300 mg of Omega-3, that equates to a whopping 4,500 mg /day. But when you count the “TOTAL” amount of fish oil you would be taking 15,000 I.U. each day to support healthy Triglyceride levels.

Consult with your Naturopath, Nutritionist, or Doctor to see what is right for you.

Good Sources of Omega 3
Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids

Probiotics

More and more evidence is emerging about the health benefits of Probiotics. Many doctors are focusing on gut health as the first line of defense with many illnesses especially those that have underlying inflammatory factors such as Lupus and other Autoimmune Diseases.

Other considerations should be those taking antibiotics, both short and long term.  I can’t believe more doctors don’t automatically prescribe a course of Probiotics following a course of antibiotics.  I’ll never forget almost 25 years ago learning how my  GP would ALWAYS recommend this protocol for all his patients receiving antibiotics.

He was definitely ahead of his time.

What are Probiotics?

Living in your gut, especially your lower intestinal tract, these beneficial microorganisms or commonly know as “good bacteria” have been promoted by many as the first line of defense for good health.

Probiotics are needed for proper digestion as well as supporting your immune system. Many Holistic Doctors say that gut health needs to be addressed first as it’s the core of staying well and keeping disease at bay.

Best Foods High In Probiotics

  • Yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Miso Soup
  • Soft Cheese
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Tempeh
  • Buttermilk
  • Pickles
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Kimchi
  • Natto

How Safe are Probiotics?

For most people probiotics are safe at recommended doses.

How Much Probiotics You Should Have Per Day

Your supplements will show a CFU or “Colony-Forming-Unit” as the measurement of total bacteria per dose.

Recommendations can be from 1 Billion to 10 Billion CFU’s. Depending on why you are using Probiotics this amount can be much more. An example is a brand that is for short term use (7 days) that has a combined combination of 14 strains providing 500 Billion CFU per day which might be used after a strong course of antibiotics to help your gut return to normal.

Benefits of Probiotics

Note: There are many strains of these bacteria and certain strains can benefit some conditions more than others. But in general, Probiotics can assist in helping things like:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Strengthen the Immune System
  • Treat Diarrhea
  • Yeast Infections
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Eczema in Children
  • Lupus
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Supports Weight Management
  • Reduce Risk of Colic
  • Post Antibiotic Use

B-Complex | Multivitamin

This section of the article will focus on B-Complex supplements including B12. I feel this will be of more use as the term “multivitamin” can be so vague when describing what you are actually getting in those type of supplements. Most multivitamins including formulas that treat a given condition or illness yield far too little ingredients to do much good. I’ll explain.

Why Most “Multi-Vitamins” are Junk!

OK. I bet I’ve upset some folks! Too bad. I’m tired of looking at and reviewing multivitamins for all these years as MOST are comprised of huge marketing campaigns and fancy labels, trying to make you believe that EVERYTHING you could possibly need is included in the ONE TINY PILL! Bull…

The fact is vitamins are very cheap to manufacture. You don’t even want to know what the $40 bottle REALLY cost to make! But the ones that have known benefits, solid research, or are the “new miracle pill”, are priced at a premium. Some actually do warrant a higher price while others are produced at pennies on the dollar.

This leads us to the marketing tactic that I find bordering on sleazy. Have you ever picked up a multivitamin and is says it contains “everything you need per day “ ? READ THE LABEL.

What you will usually find is that they add in the product many of the buzzwords like “contains CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Pycnogenol, or Grape Seed Extract”, plus every vitamin and mineral known to man!

Guess what?  Again, READ THE LABEL!  Because what you will most likely find is that those fantastic vitamins they have included in their formula are at such LOW LEVELS, will barely be of much help.  Of course is “sounds good” and justifies in their minds the higher price tag.

You really need to be educated when purchasing your supplements.

Don’t Waist Money on Vitamins!

To help not only save yourself money, but keep from throwing away more money than you should, please read ahead.

First, check the AMOUNT of each ingredient. More times then none, you will find that the amount of any given ingredient will be so little a mouse could barely survive. Or if they say 100% of the RDA/RDI this might be technically correct, but far from the amounts that many would consider to be optimal.

Second, check the form of each ingredient. A great example is with Magnesium. They throw in the cheapest version, usually Magnesium Oxide, in which you might as well be swallowing a rock since this form doesn’t digest well.  And guess what?  It’s also one of the cheapest forms of magnesium.

Without the knowledge of what EACH ingredient is, does, and what dose it needs to be for good health, you are probably going to spend much more than you need and get far less of the ingredients for positive results.

Do You Need a Multivitamin?

The short answer is that because of our lifestyles and bad eating habits, and if you only have a small amount of money per month to invest in supplements, then a GOOD multivitamin might be advisable.

Remember, all those ingredients at effective doses, cannot possibly fit in one tiny pill. If you can only take one multivitamin seek out the top brands which are usually created from top Holistic Doctors or Researchers.  They  will contain higher more effective doses of each nutrient.

You might be seeing a higher price tag on their supplements, but when you consider how much more of the important ingredients you are getting, feel good that you should now be getting a supplement that does what you intended.

You will also find that the daily dose is usually not just one pill, but a packet of say 2-4 pills that you take once or twice per day to get enough in your system.

A B-complex Supplement Might Your Best Choice

B-Complex is a group of the important B vitamins all rolled into one formula. B Vitamins are also water soluble, commonly known to be needed when you experience a lot of stress. Hence B Vitamins are the “Stress Vitamins”.

If you have ever heard the anti-vitamin people say “ you don’t need vitamins” because it just creates “expensive urine”, B-Complex is an easy vitamin to use as an example because when you urinate after taking one, your pee is bright orange or yellow!

The good news is that generally if you should take more than you need, your body has the ability to let go of the excess causing no harm.

Unlike, the fat soluble vitamins, for example Vitamin D and Vitamin E.  If you take higher than needed doses, these fat soluble nutrients would accumulate in your body and possibly cause some harm.  Knowledge is power.

What Is B-Complex?

Each of the B vitamins perform different functions but work well together. Because we don’t store these vitamins we need to ensure we take in enough food or supplement to keep our levels up.

Sometimes we need to take in more of a single type of B Vitamin to help with specific issues, but taking a B-Complex suits many peoples requirements.

B1- Thiamine

  • Creates Energy by Metabolizing Carbohydrates.
  • Needed for a Healthy Nervous System
  • Important for Growth, and Cell Function
  • Muscle Functioning
  • Healthy Digestion

B2 – Riboflavin

  • Red Cell Production and Growth
  • Anemia
  • Memory and Clear Thinking
  • Adrenal Function
  • Nervous System
  • Also Converts Food to Energy

B3 – Niacin

  • Processing of Carbohydrates and Fats
  • Maintains a Healthy Nervous System
  • Helps Repair DNA
  • Needed for Hormone Production
  • Helps Digestion and Nervous System

B5 – Pantothenic Acid

  • Breaks Down Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats
  • Promotes Healthy Skin
  • Helps with Sex Hormones
  • Adrenal Gland Support
  • Production of Red Blood Cells

B6 – Pyridoxine

  • Helps From Hemoglobin
  • Immune System Support
  • Brain and Nerve Communication
  • Helps Store Protein and Carbohydrates

B7 – Biotin

  • Adrenal Support
  • Helps Your Nervous System
  • Needed to Make Fatty Acids
  • Promotes Good Hair
  • Metabolism of Fat and Carbohydrates

B9 – Folic Acid – Folate

  • Reduces Birth Defects
  • Helps Make Red Blood Cells
  • Adrenal Support
  • Nervous System Support
  • Helps Lower Homocysteine

Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin

  • Red Cell Production
  • Protein Metabolism
  • Maintains a Healthy Nervous System
  • Helps Create DNA

Best Foods That are High in B Vitamins

  • Whole Grains
  • Fruits
  • Dark Leafy Greens
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Chicken
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Potatoes
  • Fortified Cereals
Good Sources of B Vitamins
Vitamin B infographic with list of foods and an image showing which foods are naturally high in B Vitamins

How Much B Complex You Should Have Per Day

FDA (RDI) Recommendations:

Note: Adults and Children over the age of four.

  • B1 – Thiamine
    • New FDA RDI: 1.2mg
  • B2 – Riboflavin
    • New FDA RDI: 1.3mg
  • B3 – Niacin
    • New FDA RDI: 16mg
  • B4 – Pantothenic Acid
    • New FDA RDI: 5mg
  • B6 – Pyridoxine
    • New FDA RDI: 1.7mg
  • B7 – Biotin
    • New FDA RDI: 30mcg
  • Folate
    • New FDA DRI: 400mcg for adults
    • New FDA DRI: 600mcg for pregnancy
  • B12 – Cobalamin
    • New FDA DRI: 2.4mcg

 

Know The Amounts That Will Actually Help You

You can also see from the chart below how massive the differences are between RDA and Therapeutic recommended daily requirements for certain conditions.  In fact you can barely make out the RDA amounts as they look like slivers of a column compared to the Therapeutic (THR) bars.

This is  why it’s so important to know the correct amounts of each supplement that will benefit you most before heading to the vitamin stores otherwise you might be wasting your time and your money.

Please Note:  The doses on this chart are using huge amounts to address certain illnesses and should not be seen as they correct formula for just everyone.  This is also why you need to find a good Naturopath, Dietitian, or Doctor that specializes in this type of therapy.

Theraputic vs. RDA of Several B Complex Vitamins
Bar Chart showing RDA verses Therapeutic recommendations of five B-Complex vitamins

Coenzyme Q10

You may have heard of this incredible fat-soluble nutrient from your Pharmacy or news about its effectiveness in helping with cardiovascular disease as well as other conditions. Although CoQ10 is found in every cell in the body, those with heart conditions or anyone taking Statins to help lower cholesterol levels should learn about the important benefits of taking this supplement.

Let’s learn more.

What is Coenzyme Q10?

This important fat soluble antioxidant is know by the name Coenzyme Q10 , Ubiquinone, or usually the shortened version CoQ10. Regardless what you call it, you would be smart to look at all the positive effects it can bring and why many if not most would benefit from it’s use.

CoQ10’s main functions are helping your cells with energy, decreasing risk of heart disease, a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

I personally take therapeutic doses for my heart and won’t go without using it every single day. If I run out of this powerful supplement, I definitely feel a change in my heart rate as I suffer from atrial fibrillation. After going back on the supplement in just a few days I can feel my heart settling down, as well as helping with breathlessness.

Top that off with an excellent result with my last Cardiovascular Doctor just recently and it’s no wonder why CoQ10 is first on my list to buy. By the way, my Doctor can’t figure out why my heart is as strong as it is at my age. Unfortunately, he won’t listen when I speak of vitamins!

Benefits of CoQ10

Improves Heart Disease

Studies have shown good results with Congestive Heart Failure  (5),   help with blood pressure, aid those taking Statin drugs for lowering their cholesterol, and much more.

Quick List of Benefits:

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Heart Failure
  • Helps Prevent Blood Clots
  • Help with High Blood Pressure
  • Depletion from Statin Drugs
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Effects of Aging
  • Muscle Strength and Performance
  • Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
  • Reduces Inflammation (NIH)
  • Improves Memory and Brain Function
  • Possible Improved Fertility
  • Helps with Gum Disease

How Much CoQ10 You Should Have Per Day

Doses range from 50 to as high as 1,200 mg per day depending on what you need it for. A more typical range would be 50 to 200 mg per day.

As for myself, I take one 150mg tablet twice per day which seems to be adequate for now.

Speak to your dietitian, Naturopath, or doctor (if they even know what CoQ10 is) to find out what is best for you. I know what you are saying…another dig at doctors. And you are right.

But it frustrates me that even at many Pharmacies that I’ve been to have a sign up that suggest that if you are on Statin drugs you should consider taking extra CoQ10.  Yet MOST doctors don’t have a clue of how to guide you in the correct amount to take. This needs to change.

Best Foods That are High in CoQ10

  • Beef Liver
  • Meat
  • Chicken
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Broccoli
  • Peanuts
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Soybeans

Vitamin C

In my opinion, Vitamin C is one of the most understood and underused vitamins that is at our disposal to help prevent illness and threat many conditions. Unfortunately, most of the lack of understanding probably stems from the promotion of oranges and the RDA being stated as low as it is.  We were all lead to believe that eating just ONE orange per day gives us ALL the vitamin C our bodies need. Are you kidding?

I’ll never forget reading about a breed of monkey and how much vitamin C it eats in the wild. By analyzing their daily food intake, those monkeys were eating up to 10,000 mg of Vitamin C per day! It must be that those monkeys couldn’t read the so-called recommendations to keep them healthy.

There is actually so much science and literature on the subject that I will reserve that for en entire article on Vitamin C.  But for now, I’ll just stick to laying out the basics to help you in your quest for good health.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid (L-ascorbic acid) is one of the most effective and safest water soluble antioxidants.

Although some animals can produce their own Vitamin C, it is an essential nutrient for humans.

Because of it’s great versatility, you will find it can be used for numerous illness and conditions.

Vitamin C is Helpful For:

There are so many benefits from Vitamins C including how we need it for better looking  Hair, Skin and Nails.  You can see below that it is definitely one of those nutrients that improve and protect almost every part of our bodies.

Useful Benefits of Vitamin C Include:

  • Production of Collagen
  • Promoting Good Skin and Bones
  • Regenerating Other Antioxidants
  • Important in Iron Absorption
  • Enhances the Immune System
  • Lowering Heart Disease Risk
  • Reduce the Severity of Colds
  • Chelation of Lead
  • Help Prevent Gout
  • Helps with Macular Degeneration
  • Reduces Itching From Insect Bites
  • And much more…

Why We Are Lacking in Vitamin C

Although uncommon these days, if you didn’t get any Vitamin C for long periods of time a condition called scurvy, which potential is quite serious, could occur.

Symptoms of scurvy include muscle weakness, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, bleeding gums, and rashes.

How Much Vitamin C You Should Have Per Day

The “guidelines” from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the following for adults.

90 mg per day for Men
75 mg per day for Women

Please remember this is the amount per day to prevent things like scurvy and not optimal levels recommended by many Doctors, Nutritionist, and Naturopaths.

Therapeutic levels orally can be upwards of 1,000 to 3,000 mg per day or more. How much more? Please read on.

Therapeutic Levels of Vitamin C

You can find numerous studies and practitioners across the US that utilize these two protocols, which by the way I have personally had and can’t speak highly enough of the results.

First, is the protocol called “Bowel Tolerance”. A word of caution. Because Vitamin C products are not all created equal, to adhere to a Bowel Tolerance protocol one needs to be taking a “buffered” and powdered form that is not only high strength but gentle on the stomach.

Trying to take large amounts of regular Vitamin C tablets will result in diarrhea and/or stomach discomfort. A good powdered Vitamin C will eliminate all or most of those problems.

The basis of Bowel Tolerance is that your body will tell you what it needs. Each person will find a different amount that is optimal for them. To find out the maximum amounts of Vitamin C your body can handle, you start out by splitting the dose equally 3-4 times per day slowly increasing each dose until your bowels get slightly loose.

At that point your body is telling you I’m holding on to as much as I can. Then slightly lower the amounts to produce normal stools. This will be your “Bowel Tolerance. I recommend you use this procedure with the help of your Doctor or Naturopath to set out the exact program for your condition.

The Second protocol is the use of IV drips with Vitamin C. This is controversial with many doctors, but again has much proven success, including myself and my family. This is usually administered by a Holistic Doctor, and can take between 1.5 to 3 hours.

The amount of Vitamin C in the IV drip will be adjusted as needed, but for myself my last drips were using 50,000 mg per IV.  Just how many oranges would I have had to eat?

I Need To Take How Much !
Large Semi trailer loaded with tons of fresh picked oranges

The Best Foods High in Vitamin C

  • Lemons
  • Apples
  • Limes
  • Oranges
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Capsicum
  • Broccoli
  • Kiwifruit
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit

Best Forms of Vitamin C

  • Ascorbyl Palmitate
  • Calcium Ascorbate
  • Potassium Ascorbate
  • Magnesium Ascorbate
  • Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids
  • Ester-C

Calcium

I would think that most people when asked if they knew anything about Calcium would quickly say “You get it from Milk”. It’s amazing how some commercials can embed information deep into our brains!

And I would suppose most people would also know how important Calcium is for building strong bones, but as you will learn, there is more to the benefits of needing this mineral for good health.

What is Calcium?

Calcium is another essential nutrient and is the most abundant mineral in our bodies. Most commonly known for strong bones and teeth, calcium plays a role in our hearts, muscles, and nerves.

Calcium Plays a Role In:

  • Prevention of Osteoporosis
  • Bone Development
  • Healthy Teeth
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Blood Clotting
  • Heart Function
  • Hormones

Why We Are Lacking in Calcium

According to studies (6)  getting enough calcium daily is a worldwide concern. Especially problematic in these countries is the reduced bone development in the younger populations. This effect also carries forward as we age causing a lowered retention of bone mass in older adults.

How Much Calcium Should You Have Per Day?

  • Men and Women’s RDI:  1,300 mg
  • Women Over 50:  1,300
  • Teenagers :  1,300

Note: You will find many Calcium Supplements combined with Magnesium and Vitamin D for optimal absorption. If taking higher doses, it is usually advisable to split the dose into no more than 500 mg at a time to help with absorption.

The Best Foods High in Calcium

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Broccoli
  • Soy
  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Nuts Like Almonds
  • Seeds Like Poppy and Sesame
  • Dried Figs
  • Dried Apricots
  • Canned Sardines and Salmon with Bones
  • Whey Protein Powder
  • Dark Leafy Greens
Good Sources of Calcium
Calcium infographic showing food rich in natural calcium

The Best Forms of Calcium

  • Calcium Citrate
  • Calcium Gluconate
  • Calcium Lactate
  • Calcium Carbonate (cheap) EDIT
  • Calcium Lactate

Folic Acid – Folate – Vitamin B9

I gave Folic Acid a spot of it’s own, not only because it is an very important nutrient for pregnant women to take, but some might have heard the name and not associate it with one of th B-Complex vitamins.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic Acid also known as Folate or Folacin, is also water soluble just like the other B Vitamins. The natural form of Folic Acid is B9.

Quick Glance of The Importance and Uses of Folic Acid

  • Prevents Neural Tube Defects
  • Reduces Homocysteine Levels
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Making Red Blood Cells
  • Age-related Hearing Loss
  • Liver Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Kidney Dialysis
  • Alcoholism
  • Memory Loss
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Depression
  • Nerve Pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • With Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Pregnancy and Your Unborn Babies Health

Folate has been found to be essential in the normal development and ward off malformations of an unborn babies’ spine, brain and skull. It’s extremely important to start taking Folic Acid BEFORE getting pregnant, to help prevent possible neural tube defects.

Because this nutrient is needed in the first few weeks of pregnancy, supplementation should be encouraged if you are even thinking of having a baby.

The Neural Tube is formed in the first four to six weeks of pregnancy. This is why it’s so important to not wait until you “think” you are pregnant to start your daily regiment of supplements. There is also evidence that Folate also helps prevent miscarriages.

It is estimated that upwards of 90% of women don’t have enough Folate when getting pregnant, so the recommendation is to start taking 400 mcg of Folic Acid to ensure your body has enough for you and your baby.

How Much Folic Acid Should We Get Per Day?

  • Women over the age of 14  – 400 mcg
  • During Pregnancy –  600 mcg
  • During Lactation – 600 mcg

Because many foods are fortified with Folic Acid there is not a huge portion of the population deficient with this nutrient.

But with people that drink a lot, smoke cigarettes or have inflammatory bowel diseases should be making sure that they take extra supplements.

The Best Foods High in Folic Acid

  • Green Leafy Vegetables
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Beef Liver
  • Asparagus
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Chickpeas
  • Nuts
  • Fortified Cereals
  • Okra

Iron

Iron is a vital mineral and is very important for your blood and energy levels. That said, it is one nutrient that you should seek help from your Doctor before starting taking this supplement.

Two conditions that come to mind that can cause a dangerous overload of iron are people with Hemochromatosis, a condition where you store too much iron, and those that are Transfusion Dependant especially when receiving multiple units at each transfusion.

But for the rest of us there are good reasons to supplement with iron and those reasons I will discuss below.

What is Iron?

Iron is an essential mineral that we need to get from the food we eat. Unfortunately, low iron or iron deficiency is a common condition especially for women.

Without an adequate level of iron in the body we are at risk of one of the forms of anemia. Because of it’s importance to all cells in your body you need to make sure you are getting enough from diet or supplementation.

The Difference Between Iron and Hemoglobin

If your doctor suspects low iron or anemia they might check your hemoglobin (haemoglobin for you non-US people) to help give an idea of what is going on.

Hemoglobin is a protein found in the red blood cells and transports oxygen to the other cells and tissues in your body.

Iron is just a part of hemoglobin. About 70% of all the iron in a normal persons body is contained within hemoglobin. Normal hemoglobin levels don’t necessarily indicate normal iron levels.

Why We Are Lacking in Iron

It was really surprising to see for myself how many woman, both young and a bit older, were so low in iron that they required Iron Infusions. Unfortunately, my wife needed regular Transfusions and every time we were there we saw a large number of females getting their Iron via IV Infusions.

One would immediately think that they all suffered from heavy menstrual periods, but that wasn’t always the case.

Another consideration would be if you are strictly a vegetarian. Iron absorption is poor at best, and iron from just plant based foods are at the lower end of us being able to utilize Iron. This goes also for Vitamin B12.

And without sounding like a broken record: we just don’t eat right.

Who Might Be Prone to Low Iron

  • Women with Heavy Periods
  • Teenage Girls
  • Athletes (especially females)
  • Vegetarians
  • Alcoholics
  • Those With Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Regular Blood Donors

Symptoms of Low Iron or Anemia

  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Breathlessness
  • Pale Complexion

The Bests Foods High In Iron

Haem Iron (better source)

  • Liver and other Organ Meats
  • Red Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Turkey
  • Tuna
  • Salmon

Non-Haem Iron

  • Spinach and other Leafy Greens
  • Whole Eggs (yolk)
  • Legumes
  • Dried Fruit
  • Whole Grains
  • Tofu and Tempeh
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Broccoli
  • Berries
  • Mushroom
Good Sources of Iron
Iron rich foods infographic

Iron Absorbtion

One Key point to make when taking iron supplements is the need to take Vitamin C at the same time.  Vitamin C really helps the absorption of Iron.  Another tip :  When eating iron rich foods try adding other foods that are high in Vitamin C.  Iron is hard to absorb, so get all the help you can when needing this important mineral.

Foods that Help With Iron Absorption

  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Capsicum
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Pawpaw
  • Broccoli
  • Green Leafy Vegetables

Foods that Block Iron Absorption

  • Coffee and Tea
  • Calcium Supplements (take separately)
  • High Calcium Foods
  • Soy Proteins
  • Zinc (take separately)

How Much Iron You Should Have Per Day

Recommendations for Women from the age of 19 to 50 is 18mg per day.  Men need less at just 8mg.

That said, you can see from the information above that many factors come into play from lack of absorption, health issues, diet, and exercise.  This is why I recommend talking to your Doctor about your symptoms and through blood test they can formulate a plan to get your iron levels back to normal.

Conclusion

We would all like to think we could just eat natural foods and everything is fine. The fact is there is almost no one is able to accomplish such a task. We are either too busy, too lazy to cook our own meals, or just have the lack the knowledge to make good choices in regards to the foods we eat.

Also remember that if you know you are lacking one of these essential nutrients, you would be wise to look into what else you might be lacking. Multiple deficiencies as well as multiple health conditions can make it hard for even your doctor to sort out the sometimes conflicting symptoms.

Taking a systematic methodical approach to these symptoms should help you identify your real underling needs and get you back to feeling your best in hopefully a short time.

Sources:

  1. Jaffe R MD. “How to Know if You are Magnesium Deficient: 75% of Americans Are” (transcript), 06/16/05, www.innovativehealing.com
  2. National Institutes of Health (NIH)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25540137
  3. National Institutes of Health (NIH)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19621856
  4. National Institutes of Health (NIH)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262608/
  5. National Institutes of Health (NIH)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8241697
  6. National Institutes of Health (NIH)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5684325/

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