In an ideal world, you’d get all of your essential vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. But looking at the average American diet, one thing is clear: It’s time to call for some backup. According to a meta-analysis of studies done by Oregon State University, 75 percent of us aren’t eating the daily recommended amount of fruit, and 80 percent aren’t eating enough vegetables. That means 94 percent of us don’t meet the daily recommended intake of Vitamin D, half of us don’t get enough magnesium (read on to find out why that mineral is crucial), and 44 percent aren’t getting enough calcium.
That can have serious health consequences down the road, as our bodies cope with aging. We asked experts what supplements can help fill in the gaps. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
“This is the best way to assure that you are getting the majority of the micronutrients and minerals you need in just one pill,” says Yeral Patel, MD, a board-certified physician in anti-aging regenerative and family medicine in Newport Beach, California. “Today’s diets, with their various restrictions and exclusions, don’t allow us to get all the minerals and nutrients we need solely from the foods we eat.”
The Rx: “I recommend buying from a source that sells medical-grade products to assure that they are pure, safe, and do not contain any fillers,” says Patel, who likes the brands Designs for Health, Metagenics, Integrative Therapeutics and Thorne.
Most of us are deficient in the “sunshine vitamin,” so named because our bodies produce it naturally when skin is exposed to the sun. It is believed to guard against several types of cancer and is essential for strong bones, a particular concern as we age.
“Bone health is important for both women and men, although we tend to hear more about it as a woman’s issue,” says Nicole Avena, Ph.D., assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University. “The reality is that men are also at risk for developing bone-related conditions, including osteoporosis. Vitamin D is important because it helps maintain bone health in a number of ways. For one, it improves your body’s absorption of calcium.”
The Rx: The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for Vitamin D is 600 IU for adults up to age 70 and 800 IU for adults 71 or older. Some experts consider that low for adults of any age, suggesting it should be raised to at least 1,000 IU per day. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the upper limit for Vitamin D is 4,000 IU daily.
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The B vitamins are crucial to the production of energy, and Vitamin B12 is particularly important for brain function. “If you don’t get enough B12, you can experience brain fog or lethargy,” says Avena. “As we age, we may need to take vitamin B12 supplements to get the recommended amount. We often have more difficulty absorbing B12 that we get from food.”
The Rx: “Frunutta makes a sublingual vitamin B12 that is easy to ingest and dissolves right under the tongue, which helps bypass the absorption issue,” says Avena. The RDA of Vitamin B12 is 2.4mcg. According to the NIH, an upper limit has not been set because Vitamin B12 has not been shown to cause harm.
“Getting enough fiber is important for everyone, however, men need to get the most fiber,” says Amanda Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian and advisor to Smart Healthy Living. “Fiber helps to keep things moving, can help you lower cholesterol, and may also help you control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.”
The Rx: Men should aim for 38 grams of fiber per day overall, says Miller. If you’re not getting that much from food, you might want to look into a supplement.
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“If there is one mineral almost everyone needs, it is magnesium,” says Heidi Moretti, MS, RD, a registered dietitian in Missoula, Montana, who has worked in hospitals for two decades. “Some research suggests that 70 percent of Americans fall short. This may lead to digestive issues, poor sleep, mood swings, and increased risk of heart disease.”
Magnesium is especially important to men because it aids the production of testosterone, which declines with age. “Most men begin to experience a decrease in testosterone around age 30,” says Anthony Kouri, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Toledo Medical Center. “With loss of testosterone comes decreased stamina, loss of muscle mass and lower energy levels. Research has shown that magnesium supplementation increases testosterone levels and lowers men’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”
The Rx: The recommended daily allowance for magnesium actually increases slightly for adults over 30, to 420mg per day for men and 320mg for women. The NIH says the upper tolerable limit of magnesium is 350mg daily (that applies only to a magnesium supplement).
Bone health becomes a priority after age 40, when bone density starts to decline. A calcium supplement can help. “Calcium serves many purposes in the body, but is essential for strong bones,” says Kouri. Getting adequate Vitamin D along with calcium is important, because D enables calcium absorption.
The Rx: The recommended daily amount of calcium is 1,000 mg for adults up to age 50. That increases to 1,200 mg for adult women between age 51 and 70, and both sexes after age 71. The upper daily limit for adults 50 and younger is 2,500 mg; for adults over 51, it’s 2,000 mg.
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CoQ10 (Conenzyme Q10) is a powerful antioxidant generated by the body to keep cells healthy and functioning properly. Levels decline as we age, and CoQ10 deficiency has been associated with a number of diseases. A 2018 meta-analysis of studies found that taking CoQ10 may improve heart function and improve symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases.
The Rx: There is no established daily dose of CoQ10.
Omega-3s fatty acids are great for our heart and may reduce inflammation throughout the body. “Omega-3 fatty acids can cause a major reduction in triglycerides, blood pressure, blood clots, plaque formation, and inflammation, which are all heart disease risk factors,” says Kouri. “People who are depressed and anxious are likely to see improvement if they begin taking omega-3 supplements. In addition, omega-3s helps prevent macular degeneration, which can cause vision impairment and blindness.”
The Rx: The National Institutes of Health recommend women get 1,100mg and men have 1,600mg of omega-3s daily.
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“Probiotics are beneficial to both men and women of all ages for maintaining a healthy microbiome and immune function,” says Lawrence Hoberman, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist in San Antonio, Texas. “As men age, they require more urinary tract and prostate support. Probiotics have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic prostatitis as well as treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlarged prostate, and accompanying urinary tract problems.”
The Rx: Choose a brand of probiotic with varying strains to start. Specific strains may be helpful to certain conditions, notes Hoberman. “Lactobacillus acidophilus combats harmful, disease-causing bacteria while acting as a natural antibiotic,” he says. “Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are also beneficial to prostate health, improving immune function and reducing inflammation that could lessen the risk of developing prostate cancer.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, zinc helps the body’s immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. Even more crucially to many guys, it’s essential for the male sex organs because it aids in the production of testosterone and prolactin. Zinc deficiency has been linked to erectile dysfunction.
The Rx: Adult men are advised to get 11mg a day. The NIH says the upper tolerable limit is 40 mg daily, although that doesn’t apply to men who are taking zinc under a doctor’s care.
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“This little-known nutrient plays a big role in your thyroid health,” says Moretti. “Your thyroid is your central regulator of metabolism. Without enough iodine, it won’t work well. Why are men low in iodine? Too many processed foods.”
The Rx: The RDA for iodine is 150 mcg, and the upper limit is 1,100 mcg. “Although you need enough iodine, don’t take large doses without the supervision of your doctor,” says Moretti. Too much can send your thyroid into overdrive.
Adequate protein intake is essential for maintaining lean muscle, which keeps the metabolism humming as we age. If you’re not getting enough, you may want to look into supplementing with plant protein, which tends to be easier to digest than formulations containing whey.
The Rx: The current RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for adults over 18—about 66 grams for a 180-pound person. But some studies suggest that adults over 65 may need more. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
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It’s not the miracle cure-all it was touted as for much of the twentieth century, but Vitamin C is essential for immune system support and collagen production.
The Rx: The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C is 90 mg for adult men, while the upper limit is 2,000 mg.
If you’re a tippler, you might be deficient in this B vitamin, also known as thiamin. “This is an essential B vitamin in which we often become depleted,” says Arielle Levitan, MD, an internal medicine physician in Chicago and co-founder of Vous Vitamin. Thiamin is key to optimal functioning of the brain and nerves. Additionally, “Alcohol competes with thiamin, and replacing it helps in the prevention of toxic effects.”
The Rx: The RDA of thiamin is 1.2 mg. According to the NIH, an upper limit has not been set.
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“Over time, our bodies’ natural ability to produce collagen wears down, so it’s a good idea to consider a supplement,” says Avena. “Collagen supplements can bring relief from pain by combating aging tissue and arthritis, aiding normal repair of ligaments, tendons, joints and bones while improving connective tissue. It can also help improve skin elasticity, which can delay the appearance of wrinkles.”
The Rx: You can add collagen supplements to a daily smoothie or mix them with water. “Further Food makes a flavorless collagen supplement powder, as well as a chocolate one,” says Avena. These essential vitamins and minerals will keep your health in check. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.