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What vitamins should I be taking to optimize health and increase energy?

April 21, 2023

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natural supplements

Have you changed up your supplement routine since the pandemic or looked for more natural supplements? If you’re answering yes to that question, you’re not alone. 

According to a 2020 study conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), more than 43% of people who take supplements have switched up their routine. And within that 43%, 91% reported increasing their supplement intake, either by adding new supplements, taking the same supplements more regularly or upping a dose of a particular supplement. 

The number one reason that people are changing up their supplement routine is either for overall immune support, or increased awareness in their health and wellness. And research has shown that supplements are here to stay. But this increase in supplement intake has raised a new question – could we be taking too many supplements? 

When we started researching supplements for this article, we found some interesting research that’s been done around the most common supplements we take (things like Vitamin C, D and Multivitamins), and potentially the ‘lack of benefits’ they truly provide. 

From health.com:

“We found a surprising neutrality of effects,” lead author David Jenkins, MD, professor of medicine and nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, told Health. “In other words, it didn’t seem to do anything.” Their findings were accurate for multivitamins and for vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium supplements—all nutrients that have been touted for heart health in the past.

We know that people who eat more vitamin- and mineral-rich foods tend to live longer and healthier lives, but purely getting those vitamins through pill form might not be the wellness hack we previously thought it was. 

This information, along with the increased price of vitamins, we wanted this article to help you determine what supplements are worth taking, and introduce you to some natural supplements that you might not have heard of before. 

How to get vitamins and minerals naturally from your diet

There are main vitamins and minerals that you need to make sure you’re getting enough of every day. 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A, first in the alphabet and arguably the most important vitamin for overall health function. Vitamin A keeps your heart, lungs, liver and other organs working properly. 

You can get more Vitamin A in your diet by eating:

  • Sweet potato: 1096 micrograms of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) per 1 medium potato, or 122% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Carrots: 509 micrograms RAE per 1/2 cup chopped, or 56% of the DV
  • Spinach: 469 micrograms RAE per 1/2 cup cooked, or 52% of the DV
  • Butternut squash: 572 micrograms RAE per 1 cup cubed, or 64% of the DV

Vitamin D

Next up is Vitamin D which helps your body build strong bones by helping your body absorb calcium from food and supplements. You can get more Vitamin D in your diet by eating:

  • Salmon: 570 international units (IU) per 3-ounce serving, or 95% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Mushrooms: 1000 IU per 3 ounces, or 167% of the DV
  • Fortified orange juice: 137 IU per 1 cup, or 23% of the DV
  • Fortified milk: 120 IU per 1 cup, or 15% of the DV
  • Fortified breakfast cereals: varies, but typically around 40-50 IU per serving, or 5-7% of the DV

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is a unique vitamin because it’s actually a group of vitamins that includes eight B vitamins. Here’s a list of foods that can you help you get each of these vital B vitamins naturally from your diet:

  • Thiamin (B1): Pork: 0.9 milligrams per 3-ounce serving, or 60% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Riboflavin (B2): Beef liver: 3.9 milligrams per 3-ounce serving, or 288% of the DV
  • Niacin (B3): Chicken breast: 14.8 milligrams per 3-ounce serving, or 92% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): Avocado: 2.5 milligrams per 1 cup cubed, or 50% of the DV
  • Pyridoxine (B6): Chickpeas: 0.5 milligrams per 1/2 cup, or 25% of the DV
  • Biotin (B7): Egg: 10 micrograms per 1 large egg, or 33% of the DV
  • Folate (B9): Spinach: 131 micrograms per 1/2 cup, or 33% of the DV
  • Cobalamin (B12): Clams: 84 micrograms per 3-ounce serving, or 1400% of the DV.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, energy production, and bone health. It is found naturally in many foods, including leafy green vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

Magnesium supplements are often used to help with sleep, anxiety, and muscle cramps. Research has shown that magnesium may be effective for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2017 review published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that magnesium supplementation was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety in people with mild-to-moderate anxiety.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that magnesium supplementation improved sleep quality in elderly people with insomnia.

How to get more magnesium in your diet:

  • Spinach: 156 milligrams per cooked cup, or 37% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Pumpkin seeds: 156 milligrams per ounce, or 37% of the DV
  • Swiss chard: 150 milligrams per cooked cup, or 36% of the DV
  • Dark chocolate (70-85% cacao solids): 129 milligrams per 2-ounce serving, or 31% of the DV 
  • Chia seeds: 111 milligrams per ounce, or 29% of the DV
  • Black beans: 120 milligrams per cup, or 28% of the DV
  • Almonds: 80 milligrams per ounce, or 19% of the DV

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What natural supplements should you consider taking?

B12

B12 is also an important supplement to take, especially if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. Vitamin B12 helps keep your blood and nerve cells happy, and it plays a big role in making DNA. It’s a vitamin that’s found naturally in animal foods, which means vegans and vegetarians won’t get enough in their diet alone. 

Here’s some of the best dietary sources of B12:

  • Clams: 84 micrograms per 3-ounce serving, or 1400% of the DV
  • Beef liver: 70.7 micrograms per 3-ounce serving, or 1178% of the DV
  • Salmon: 4.9 micrograms per 3-ounce serving, or 82% of the DV
  • Eggs: 0.6 micrograms per large egg, or 10% of the DV
  • Milk and dairy products: 1.2 micrograms per cup of milk, or 18% of the DV
  • Fortified breakfast cereals: varies, but typically around 6 micrograms per serving, or 100% of the DV

Natural supplements 

Over the years more natural supplements have gained popularity as people are searching for alternative ways to support their health. Today we’re going to dive into a few of the natural supplements that offer a range of benefits to your everyday life, and how you can incorporate more of these natural supplements into your diet. 

Kava Root

Kava root is a natural supplement derived from the root of the Kava plant, which is native to the Pacific Islands. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its calming and relaxing properties. Kava root is often consumed as a tea or in supplement form, and it is known for its ability to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

The active compounds in Kava root are called kavalactones, which interact with the brain's GABA receptors. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate anxiety and stress, and kavalactones can help to increase the brain's GABA activity, leading to feelings of relaxation and calmness.

Research has shown that Kava root can be effective for reducing anxiety and stress. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that Kava root was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in people with generalized anxiety disorder. Another study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that Kava root was effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and stress in people with chronic stress.

Look for Kava Root tea in your local grocery store as an easy way to start incorporating more of this natural supplement into your routine. 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an herb and natural supplement that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It is native to India, and its roots and leaves are used for medicinal purposes. Ashwagandha is often used as an adaptogen, which means it can help the body to cope with stress.

The active compounds in Ashwagandha are called withanolides, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research has shown that Ashwagandha may be effective for reducing stress and anxiety. 

Ashwagandha may also be helpful for improving cognitive function. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements found that Ashwagandha was effective in improving memory and cognitive function in healthy adults.

Lastly, Ashwagandha may help to lower cortisol levels, which is a hormone that is released in response to stress. High levels of cortisol can lead to a range of health problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, and anxiety. 

How to take Ashwagandha

  • Ashwagandha powder – mixed with milk or water. Ashwagandha roots have the most medicinal properties, and to create this powder it’s usually the roots that are dried, cut and sifted for tea or powder. 
  • Ashwagandha churna balls – Usually made with herbs like Gokshura, Safed Musli, and Shilajit to maximize the health benefits of Ashwagandha for hair, skin and immunity.
  • Ashwagandha tea – This is an amazing drink to help you have a restful sleep each night. You can buy Ashwagandha tea or buy the root and boil it to make your own tea. 

Lion's Mane

Lion's Mane is a type of mushroom that has also been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It is known for its potential cognitive and neurological benefits, and it is often consumed as a natural dietary supplement or in tea form.

Lion's Mane contains bioactive compounds called hericenones and erinacines, which have been shown to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) production in the brain. NGF is a protein that plays a key role in the growth, maintenance, and survival of nerve cells. By promoting NGF production, Lion's Mane may help to support brain function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Research has shown that Lion's Mane may be effective for improving cognitive function and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements found that Lion's Mane supplementation improved cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. 

In addition, Lion's Mane may have neuroprotective properties. A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that Lion's Mane extract protected against neuronal damage in rats with Alzheimer's disease. 

The best way to incorporate more Lion’s Mane into your diet is through Lion’s Mane powder which you can add to smoothies or simply mix with milk or water

In a world where we’re constantly being told we need to do more or buy more to take care of ourselves, it’s always important to step back and think of who’s benefiting from you buying and taking more supplements. And to ask yourself, is there a way that I can get this more naturally from my diet? 

When it comes to taking any form of supplements, always make sure to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before implementing them into your diet. Each supplement might react differently to other medications, supplements or dietary requirements unique to you. And, it might be time to ask your doctor if you’re taking too many supplements, and how you can get more supplements naturally from your diet. 
If you’re ready to form more healthy eating habits, and make sure you’re getting enough of each food group, vitamin and mineral, download our free habit tracker. This habit tracker is designed to help you easily keep track of the habits that are helping you to live a healthier life each and every day. Download for free today.

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