Do Vitamins equal Vitality? Have you ever heard the saying “You are what you eat!”? Well, many people see this as just a saying or a funny little line to tell children — but what if it’s really true? Take a step back and think about how you’ve been feeling lately. If you have been feeling blah, bland, or lifeless maybe it’s time to do a deeper dive. Consider the things you are choosing to put into your body, are they full of life and color or are they dull and droopy? Maybe it’s time to consider what vitamins you are consuming.
Let’s think about some of our most prized possessions for a moment: our cars. Whether you’re driving around in a Ferrari or a Ford, your car is probably very important to you! We wouldn’t put diesel fuel into a gas-powered engine and expect it to run well, right? If you are not fueling your body with whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean proteins, beans and legumes, and adequate amounts of water you might be shorting yourself in the vitamin and mineral department.
Vitamins and minerals, also known as micronutrients, are needed for all processes in the body from bone and tissue formation to the transmission of nerve impulses through the body. Your metabolism and ability to use food as energy are dependent on your body having enough of certain vitamins and minerals to act as catalysts for these millions of internal chemical reactions. Think of your body as one big science fair where all kinds of different reactions are happening all at once in all parts of your body all of the time — cool right?!
Let’s go over some of our most in-demand vitamins and minerals:
Magnesium is the sixth most abundant element on Earth. It is necessary for over 300 biological processes within the human body, yet it’s one of the most common deficiencies affecting approximately 75% of Americans. Adult men need approximately 420 mg/day and women 320mg/day. What does this look like in a day of eating?
- ½ cup all-bran cereal for breakfast with 1 banana = 126 mg
- 1 cup brown rice with ½ cup cooked frozen spinach and 4 oz salmon = 195 mg
- ½ cup cooked swiss chard with ½ cup chickpeas topped with ½ oz slivered almonds and 3 oz chicken = 263
→ DAILY TOTAL: 584 mg!
If you are focusing on eating a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods you are likely doing well in the magnesium department!
Magnesium is responsible for energy production inside each one of your 30 trillion cells. Responsibilities also include the synthesis of our own antioxidant production which prevents inflammation from building up within our bodies. Antioxidants also fight off cancer cells and prevent free radicals from doing damage to our DNA. Free radicals come from all kinds of places such as foods, environmental pollution, stress, etc. Magnesium is also needed for the structural integrity of bones, teeth, cell membranes, and chromosomes. Finally, cell signaling and cell migration can be affected by a lack of magnesium.
Symptoms of deficiency include weak bones, muscle weakness, and spasms, gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular issues such as irregular heartbeats and high blood pressure, migraines, and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
Foods that are rich in magnesium: Green leafy vegetables, unrefined whole grains such as oats and barley, nuts, beans (navy, pinto, kidney, and garbanzo), seafood, and chocolate (yes, that’s right).
Now Trending: If you’ve been on the famous TikTok app recently you might have seen the videos of people putting aesthetically pleasing green chlorophyll drops in their water. Green leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a pigment that allows plants and algae to trap light at specific wavelengths. At the center of this pigment is a magnesium molecule, hence why green leafy vegetables are such a great source of magnesium! Keep in mind that naturally occurring chlorophyll is fat-soluble, meaning that we can absorb and store it more efficiently. Naturally occurring chlorophyll is changed into a water-soluble form called chlorophyllin to make drops and supplements such as the ones in the videos. To do this, changes are made to the pigment. The magnesium at the center of the pigment is swapped for a copper atom. This is a semi-synthetic form with added sodium copper salts made from chlorophyll. So, what’s the verdict? Chlorophyll drops (AKA chlorophyllin) have some benefits such as they do still boast antioxidant properties. From a nutritionist’s standpoint — food first! With no tolerable upper limit, chlorophyllin drops are likely safe, but in most cases unnecessary. Keep in mind that there is a tolerable upper limit for copper and too much copper can cause issues within the liver. The benefits many people see from adding this to their regimen most likely come from simply drinking more water, not what’s in the water!
Always consult your doctor before adding a new supplement, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
2) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most underrated components of optimal physical and mental wellbeing. It’s no coincidence that each of the human body cells is equipped with a Vitamin D receptor (VDR) within the nucleus. Vitamin D plays an active role in managing healthy blood pressure, having a strong immune system, building and maintaining strong bones, proper functioning of the nervous system, healthy cell formation, and may even play a role in insulin secretion in humans, although the data is limited.
Deficiency is common with approximately 1 billion people worldwide considered deficient while 50% of the population is Vitamin D insufficient. Deficiency is generally defined as levels less than 20ng/mL and insufficiency is less than 30ng/mL. Functional medicine doctors and practitioners prefer to see levels within the 50-70ng/mL range. These levels not only prevent disease but also promote wellness and longevity.
A diet rich in foods such as wild-caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, eggs, and mushrooms will boast good amounts of Vitamin D. We can also synthesize Vitamin D from the sun. Getting enough sun to turn the skin a slight pink color is an indication that the body is making Vitamin D. The sunlight triggers the skin to produce prohormone Vitamin D and it is then sent to the liver to be turned into its active form where it can then be used throughout the body.
Those with darker skin tones or those who are typically covered when in the sun are at an increased risk for Vitamin D deficiency. This is most commonly seen in those of African American, Latino, and Middle Eastern descent as well as the elderly population. When opting for a vitamin D supplement, look for a Vitamin D3 + K2 for the most bang for your buck!
Selenium is a mineral that is often overlooked as well when it comes to feeling your best. This mineral is responsible for the proper functioning of selenoproteins, which regulate antioxidant function, healthy sperm and reproduction, thyroid function, and muscle metabolism. When it comes to feeling your best, selenium is important as the enzyme that converts thyroid hormone T4 to T3 is a selenium-dependent enzyme.
The thyroid gland is responsible for controlling the body’s metabolic rate, and poor thyroid function can manifest as low energy, weight gain, trouble losing weight, and temperature dysregulation. Those who are deficient are more likely to respond poorly to psychological stressors making this an important mineral for anyone with a high-stress life or anyone with anxiety or depression.
The deficiency of selenium can exacerbate iron and vitamin E deficiency, leading to even more symptoms such as inflammation, low energy, anemia, poor oxygen saturation, and more. Vitamin E and selenium work in complementary interaction with one another, meaning that high levels of one can mask a deficiency in the other. Eating a diet rich in both can ensure proper levels. Selenium is found in organ meats, seafood, grains, brazil nuts, and some plants.
Brazil nuts definitely give you the most bang for your buck at 989% Daily Value for a serving of 6-8 nuts! Make it a daily habit to have 2-3 and you should be getting more than enough each day.
Higdon, J., & Drake, V. J. (2012). An evidence-based approach to vitamins and minerals health benefits and intake recommendations. Stuttgart: Thieme.
Linus Pauling Institute. (2021) Chlorophyll and chlorophyllin. Retrieved from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/chlorophyll-chlorophyllin
Office of dietary supplements – selenium. (2021, March 6). Retrieved May 22, 2021, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/
Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency.