According to the CDC, vitamins are defined as “any of a group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth, development and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.”
While vitamins are organic substances (made by plants or animals), minerals are inorganic elements that come from the earth, soil and water and are absorbed by plants.
Simple enough, right?
While all experts seem to agree that the best way to get your vitamins is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods, they also seem to always be weighing in on which vitamins you need and which ones you don’t. In addition, doctors say that different people need different nutrients at different times in their lives.
So, what are the most important vitamins for men, for total and long-lasting wellness?
Vitamin C is one of the most essential of all vitamins, and is a very important antioxidant that protects the body by controlling free radicals that attack the healty cells of the body.
How to get more: Vitamin C sources include oranges, bell pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, lemons, limes, cantaloupe, watermelon, and pineapple.
Recent research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk for colon cancer, and one study found that men with low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack as men with normal levels.
Vitamin D becomes even more important with age, because it’s needed to absorb calcium and helps prevent weak muscles and bones.
It’s important to note that too much vitamin D can cause fatigue and muscle weakness, so you should stay below 2,000 IU [international units] unless your doctor advises otherwise.
How to get more: Good sources of vitamin D include salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, milk, cheese, egg yolk, orange juice, yogurt, and fortified breakfast cereal. Experts also say that since it can sometimes be hard to get enought vitamin D from food, many men can also benefit from taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily.
Vitamin A helps support the immune system, as well as aiding with healthy vision.
How to get more: Some of the top sources of vitamin A are carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, apricots, cantaloupe, broccoli, eggs, milk, and cod liver oil.
Older men, in particular, may have an increased need for this B vitamin, which boosts brain health and helps keep the nervous system healthy.
How to get more: B12 sources include salmon, shrimp, beef, chicken, clams, eggs, milk, and cheese.
Folate, or folic acid, is one of the important B vitamins. Folate may help protect men from heart disease because it prevents the build-up of homocysteine, a substance that your body needs to build protein but that can lead to heart and blood vessel disease if produced in excess. Other studies have suggested that folate can also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and even depression.
Take note: according to research, too much folate may increase your risk for colon cancer, so talk to your doctor about how much folate is right for you. Usually, the recommended amount is 400 micrograms.
How to get more: Folate sources include lima beans, spinach, asparagus, oranges, strawberries, and avocado.
Multivitamin: Yes or No?
For most men, eating a healthy, balanced diet will provide them with most of their daily nutrition requirements. However, since some men don’t necessarily eat as well as they should, doctors sometimes do recommend a daily multivitamin to help fill any dietary gaps.
In addition, some medical conditions may require special dietary supplements.
The best answer? Talk to your doctor about which supplements, if any, you need to be taking based on your individual health needs.