In this post you will learn the 2 vitamins & minerals you most likely are deficient in regardless of diet that are not only very important for good health but also easy to fix.
Since I have been reading nutrition/health books and research for a few years as almost a part time job, while also spending a lot of time & money on supplements and blood tests, I often get friends asking me what supplements could help them with X or Y health benefit.
While it’s true that some vitamins can help you more with certain benefits, overall you want to avoid ANY vitamin/mineral deficiency as sooner (cramps, low energy) or later (your DNA won’t repair itself well, cancer, skin aging faster) it will cause trouble.
While most nutrient deficiencies can & should be corrected with a proper diet, some of these can be very hard in our modern days, especially these 2 which affected me and probably most of you, Vitamin D & Magnesium.
Vitamin D deficiency, affecting almost all westerners yet extremely important
As you might know, Vitamin D is produced by the body as a result of UVB rays from the sun directly touching our skin. Sunscreen thus blocks it and you also have to be outside, a window will block the UVB rays (but not the dangerous cancer UV rays – bad bad!). Sadly, most of us, especially in the northern hemisphere, barely get enough sunlight at a strong enough intensity to produce enough vitamin D besides during the peak of the summer where you need to be outside for around one hour, ideally topless. For example, even if it was comfortable to be topless outside in the middle of the winter with snow all around you, the sun is too weak to produce much vitamin D so without supplements or artificial indoor light (which mimics the sun) you are pretty much guaranteed to be deficient.
An easy fix is to get vitamin D3 supplements and take them in the morning. Certain food also has vitamin D such as fish and eggs but it’s in such small quantities I doubt it will make a difference unless you are barely deficient (or an Esquimo/Inuit with barely any sun or vitamin D supplements so you need to eat fish and cod liver all year long to have vitamin D)
How much to take? 1,000IU per 25lb or body weight / Day (as the vitamin D council recommends). You might need more, especially if you are darker skinned and/or barely go outside during the sun peak hours like me. If you can get blood tests you might discover like me that you need to take more to reach blood levels of 50ng/L or more.
Best absorbed Form & Brands? D3 is best, D2 is ok. Ideally in a soft gel form. I take 1-2 5,000IU soft gel from now foods each day. As I mention in my “more advanced” post on vitamin deficiencies you should look out for depending on your diet, I personally often am missing K2 or Iodine so I take the life extension supplement I link to later in that post while traveling which combines these with Vitamin D to take in the morning.
Magnesium, we used to get it from water before urbanization and water filtering, not anymore!
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral used in over 300+ enzymatic processes and is also needed to form strong bones with calcium or prevent muscle cramps which I’ve had for years until I took magnesium supplements, now I get 0 cramps during the day or night unless I stop supplementing, one of the easiest mineral for me to know when I am deficient of! Most likely you are deficient unless you A) drink well water/bottled mineral water from a water source rich in magnesium or B) Do not eat everyday seeds/nuts (pumpkin seeds is #1) or large quantities of spinach. Then again, even if you DO eat a lot of pumpkin seeds (or other seeds) to get magnesium, you will severely unbalance your omega 3 to omega 6 ratios as you can see here. And negate any benefits of an optimal 1:1 ratio of omega 3 to 6.
For more information on preventing magnesium deficiency you can check out this post I made. Also, some research has been done to show that most of us are deficient and we need to supplement since our modern water sources contains almost no magnesium and even our food sources are usually depleted in magnesium nowadays due to our plant sources growing in magnesium depleted environments (they can’t give to us what they don’t get much of while growing!).
How much to take? 300-400mg / Day depending on how much you think your diet might be giving you. I only eat spinach daily which contains some magnesium so I take ~300mg per day. This is a very safe minimum range but might not be enough, take blood tests eventually.
Best time to take? Before bed! It will help you relax and sleep better. If you notice you sleep much better once you take these supplements, its a sign you were very deficient to begin with.
Best absorbed Form & Brands? Magnesium oxide is terrible! All the other ones are better, most notably magnesium citrate or malate are my favorite ones. If you have problems with citrate (which you can find in local stores along side the terrible oxide form) you should order malate. Other forms are also ok in general. Often magnesium is mixed with potassium, which does seem to work better for me and I take the combination every now and then.
So if you live in a country that gets snow you definitely want to take vitamin D supplements during the winter and even the summer if you are like me and do not stay outside 1+ hour per day near noon. Magnesium is similar, most of us do not have a water source with magnesium in addition to our food being depleted of magnesium compared to our ancestors, supplements are very useful. If you had muscle cramps and/or sleep better once you take magnesium supplements, then you know despite no blood tests that you most likely were deficient!
Supplements are not a substitute for real foods, but it can be hard to get enough vitamin D or magnesium so supplements are very useful. Of course, depending on your diet you might also be deficient in other vitamins or minerals which you can at least cure with good food intake (though supplements can be useful for some). If you want to go more in depth I recommend you calculate your daily intake of food for a few days at the following website called cronometer. For example, I found i was often not eating enough Zinc, vitamin C and Calcium which made it easy to fix.
Do not use a multivitamin instead thinking it will fix everything! As I explain in this post on the dangers of multivitamins, it is not a side effect free “insurance” to not having a proper diet, it is a lot better to either correct deficiencies with food or individual supplements where you can control the quantity & quality (which is very important for some, such as magnesium).