Which vitamins & minerals do you need? Whilst it’s undeniably convenient to take a really good quality multinutrient once a day (like PhD’s Multinutrient), it’s always good to know what your body needs – and why.
ESSENTIAL VS NON-ESSENTIAL
When you read about micronutrients including vitamins and minerals, you’ll see some referred to as “essential” and others as “non-essential”. You’ll notice the term “essential” applied to vitamins, dietary minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Essential vitamins and minerals are those that can not be synthesised by the body, meaning the body cannot create them out of anything else. The only way your body can get an essential nutrient is if you consume that exact nutrient in food or supplement form. “Non-essential” nutrients can be synthesised by the body, so you don’t necessarily need to get them directly from food or supplements.
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL VITAMINS
Did you know there are 13 essential vitamins that your body needs? They are Vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the eight B vitamins. These are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyroxidine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12).
FAT SOLUBLE OR WATER SOLUBLE VITAMINS?
With vitamins, it’s not enough to know about essential micronutrients. Yu also need to consider the difference between fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your fat tissue (these are Vitamins A, D, E, and K). This is important, because it means the body holds on to them and therefore you don’t need to consume these vitamins as often.
Water-soluble vitamins are excrete through your urine, and you therefore need to get them through food or supplements on a regular basis. The eight B-Vitamins are water-soluble (and B12 is the only one stored in the liver).
This is just one reason why a daily multivitamin supplement is a no-brainer: it gives you your RDA of essential minerals and vitamins, including the water-soluble ones. Try PhD Multinutrient which has optimal amounts of 21 vitamins and minerals, including the ones we talk about in this article (Vitamins A, D3, E, K, C, all the B-Vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, chromium, and iodine).
WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL MINERALS?
There are 16 essential dietary minerals (we need to be specific and call them dietary minerals, because there are well over 4000 naturally-occurring minerals on earth!
The essential dietary minerals are calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, chromium, and iodine, plus phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium, chloride, manganese, molybdenum, and fluoride. It is more difficult to get optimal amounts of mineral from food alone, simply because most food contains only trace amounts. And it’s really hard to get to dose right! Yet another reason to take a daily multivitamin and mineral blend.
ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH?
Designing a diet with the correct amounts of all these vitamins and minerals would be a monumental task. But there are some essential nutrients that are harder to get than others. Many people are deficient in Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), a vitamin which helps convert tryptophan to niacin and serotonin, aiding good sleep and balanced appetite.
Vitamin B12 is another common deficiency, especially in those who follow a vegan diet, because it is mostly found in animal products. Older people can sometimes struggle to absorb the B12 in food, too.
Iron is a common mineral deficiency, especially amongst menstruating women. This mineral is particularly difficult to absorb from plants, so vegans and plant-based eaters should pay even closer attention to their intake.
The mineral magnesium can be low in people who exercise at high intensity, and this is a double blow because the body can start to tap into the magnesium stores in your bone tissue if it runs low. Definitely one to supplement with if you train.
HOW TO SUPPLEMENT WITH VITAMINS AND MINERALS
The best way to take any vitamin or mineral supplement is daily, ideally with food. For many people, this means taking a daily dose with breakfast (for convenience). Some minerals may be slightly more useful towards bedtime (zinc and magnesium in particular) but the effect is negligible. We think it’s far more important to:
1) Choose a high quality multi-nutrient supplement with science-backed ingredients
2) Ensure the doses are optimal and not excessive
3) Check there is no filler or unnecessary ingredients
4) Remember to the supplement every day as recommended