In an ideal world, we would all eat very low-processed, organic and nutrient-dense diets filled with all sorts of foods that provide us with the vitamins we need. But this isn’t always possible or realistic for many men, leaving a lot of room for common nutrient deficiencies and health problems as a consequence. Many people assume vitamin or mineral deficiencies are mostly a third-world problem in the 21st century, but in fact research tells us that even in developed nations, the best vitamins for men aren’t consumed enough.
A high percentage of men today eating a typical “western diet” experience at least one type of vitamin or nutrient deficiency, mostly due to eating a poor diet that’s low in vitamin-rich foods like veggies and fruit. In 2009, a report by NBC News stated that “studies show 77 percent of men don’t take in enough magnesium, that many of us are deficient in vitamin D, and that the vitamin B12 in our diets may be undermined by a common heartburn medication. And we haven’t even mentioned our problems with potassium and iodine yet.” (1)
Make no mistake, men are just as susceptible as women are to experiencing low vitamin and mineral levels. Resolving deficiencies and consuming more nutrients help improve many aspects of a man’s overall health: better muscle strength and gains, a faster metabolism and fat loss, more energy, better sleep, improved sexual performance, and protection against health problems like a heat attack, colon or prostate cancer. That’s why it’s important to get as much of the best vitamins for men as possible in your diet, just as it’s crucial for the opposite sex to obtain the best vitamins for women, many of which overlap due to these damaging deficiencies.
The Best Vitamins for Men
Based on statistics about which vitamins a high percentage of men might be missing, here are some of the most important and best vitamins for men to make sure you or your loved one gets enough of:
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in both adult men and women. It’s estimated that a whopping 45 percent to 75 percent of all adults in the U.S. experience at least some degree of vitamin D deficiency, especially those who live in cold climates and spend most of their time indoors. (2)
Men need vitamin D to produce enough testosterone, maintain strong bones, protect brain health, prevent mood disorders like depression, and help control cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Vitamin D is also capable of helping lower inflammation, which is why some studies have found that men deficient in D might be up to 80 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those who aren’t deficient. (3)
Vitamin D can be obtained from eating certain foods like eggs, some dairy products and even certain mushrooms, but we get the majority of our vitamin D from directly being exposed to the sun, without wearing much or any sunscreen. By spending 15–20 minutes outside most days of the week without sunscreen on, you help vitamin D become synthesized when it comes into contact with your skin, plus you detox your body with the sun.(4) During the colder months of the year, or if you just aren’t able to regularly get outdoors, consider taking a supplement to cover your bases.
2. Vitamin B12
Many men and women tend to be low in vitamin B12, although for somewhat different reasons. Studies show that most men usually consume the daily B12 they need (from eating things like beef, poultry and eggs), but they often have trouble with proper absorption of vitamin B12 due to medication use, especially older men taking several prescriptions at once. Medications like acid-blocking drugs and those used to manage blood pressure or diabetes can interfere with how B12 is metabolized in the body — which is a problem considering vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue and central nervous system problems.
A report from Harvard Medical School stated that estimates show around 3 percent to 4 percent of all adults are severely low in B12, but about 20 percent have a borderline deficiency that’s still risky. (5) B12 can be obtained from eating most animal proteins, especially lamb, beef and salmon. If you avoid eating most or all animal products or are taking any medications regularly, it’s also a good idea to get your levels tested and consider taking an additional B12 supplement daily to cover your needs.
3. Antioxidant Vitamins (Vitamins A, C and E)
Eating a diet rich in high-antioxidant foods like fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens like spinach, kale or collard greens, is the best way to get protective antioxidants like vitamin C and A. These fat-soluble vitamins cannot be made by the body, so they must come from our diets. Their biggest benefit is fighting free radical damage (also called oxidative stress), which speeds up the aging process and puts men at a greater risk for problems like cancer, cognitive decline, vision loss and heart disease. (6)
As men get older, consuming antioxidant vitamins helps protect healthy cells, prevent cell mutations and tumor growth, and spare muscle wasting/sarcopenia, artery damage and tissue loss. Dry, irritated skin and poor vision (including night blindness or sensitivity to light) could be a sign that you’re low in vitamin A or vitamin E, while vitamin C deficiency might show up as a weakened immune system, frequently getting sick, swollen gums and nosebleeds.
Making sure to “eat a rainbow” worth of different colorful vitamin C foods, veggies and fruits — plus nuts and seeds like almonds and sunflower seeds for extra vitamin E benefits — goes a long way in lowering your risk for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, skin damage and diabetes.
4. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is important for building and maintaining strong bones, blood clotting, and preventing heart disease — currently the No. 1 cause of death among adult men living in the U.S. and many other western nations. (7) Why might a man be low in this vitamin? Vitamin K deficiency is more common in men who don’t regularly consume veggies or dairy products, those who have been taking antibiotics or medications for an extended period of time, and men suffering from intestinal problems, such as IBS or inflammatory bowel disease, which interfere with absorption.
Vitamin K1 is found in many green vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in things like dairy products. The best way to prevent vitamin K deficiency is to eat plenty of different veggies, including green leafy vegetables, broccoli, collards and cabbage, plus some wild-caught fish and cage-free eggs too.
In addition to the important, best vitamins for men listed above, all men should make an effort to consume these essential minerals and fatty acids too:
Magnesium is an essential electrolyte mineral involved in over 300 different chemical processes. It plays a part in regulating calcium, potassium and sodium levels, helping prevent conditions like high blood pressure, muscle spasms, headaches and heart disease. Levels of magnesium in the modern food supply have been going down due to soil depletion, which is one reason people might be getting less. (8) When a man is under a lot of stress, works out often or has a form of a digestive disorder that blocks absorption, he’s more likely to experience low magnesium levels.
Signs of magnesium deficiency are far-reaching and common: muscle twitches, anxiety, trouble going to the bathroom, and difficulty getting good sleep, for example. Make sure to get enough by consuming magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy green veggies, cruciferous veggies, sea vegetables/algae, beans, nuts and seeds. It’s also a good idea to supplement with extra magnesium since studies show many older people are prone to experiencing reduced magnesium intestinal absorption, reduced magnesium bone stores and excess urinary loss of magnesium.
6. Omega-3 Fish Oils
Research has shown there are many benefits associated with eating more wild-caught fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, tuna and halibut. Omega-3 fish oil supplements can also be useful for tipping the scale in favor of a healthier ratio of fatty acids within your diet. Most people eating a “western diet” consume plenty omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory and found in many packaged foods and vegetables oils, but not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and found in certain fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Ideally, all men (and women too) would consume a ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s that’s between about 2:1 to 4:1 (so roughly double the amount of omega-6s than 3s). (9) However, some men might be consuming up to 10 times more omega-6s than this! The two need to balance each other out in order to keep inflammation levels down and protect the heart, brain and immune systems. Eating wild-caught fish several times per week, or taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement equal to about 1,000 milligrams daily, is the best way to ensure you get enough.
Low potassium raises the risk for cardiovascular problems, especially high blood pressure, which affects about one in every three adult men. It’s also been linked with poor bone health, a sluggish metabolism, fatigue (since it helps your cells use glucose for energy), poor digestion and muscle spasms. Many adults in the U.S. and other developed nations suffer from low potassium. In fact, research done by the USDA shows that a significant percentage of adults don’t even get half of the recommended amount of potassium they need!
Potassium deficiency is most common in men who take medications or diuretics in order to treat high blood pressure, diabetes or coronary heart disease, plus in those taking laxatives often for constipation, men with a history of kidney or adrenal disorders, alcoholics, and men who exercise for more than one to two hours a day.
You can help meet your potassium needs by eating foods like beans, avocado, sweet potato, bananas, salmon and grass-fed beef. If you’re dehydrated, have a fever or have diarrhea, chances are you’re falling low and should make an effort to get more than usual.