The vitamin aisle can be overwhelming. If you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, have more energy, sharpen your mind and fight off disease, here are the seven nutrients your body needs the most.
It repairs DNA and supports brain function. A deficiency can raise your risk of liver damage and even liver cancer, says Steven Zeisel, director of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute. In one study, people who ate the most choline cut their pancreatic cancer risk by a third.
Get It Naturally – Eggs are loaded. If you ate six pork ribs, you’d still be just shy of your day’s quota (550 milligrams), but a three-egg omelette provides more than 80% of that amount.
How To Supplement – Pick a pill that has less than 100% of your daily value – you want just enough to top off your tank. Gut bacteria transform excess choline into trimethylamine, which causes fishy-smelling BO.
Our Pick – Solgar Choline, 250 mg (R144, Wellness Warehouse).
This brain food may help fight headaches and improve your mood, says Emily Tarleton, of the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Shoot for about 400 milligrams a day.
Get It Naturally – Plants suck up magnesium in soil through their roots; seeds harbor the bulk of it. Top sources: sesame seeds (126 milligrams per ¼ cup), raw cashews (100), and almonds (97). Black beans, technically a seed, have 84 milligrams per full cup.
How To Supplement – Most men fall short on magnesium in their diet. The Institute of Medicine recommends taking up to 350 milligrams a day from a supplement. Your body absorbs magnesium citrate best.
Our Pick – Slow-Mag Magnesium (R120, Clicks).
Your body turns nitrates into nitric oxide, a gas that boosts blood flow to muscles during exercise. Result: more oxygen and glucose to help you optimize your performance, says Gary Miller, an exercise physiologist at Wake Forest University.
Get It Naturally – Aim for 3.4 milligrams a day per kilogram of your bodyweight (about 270 milligrams for an 80kg guy). Celery, beetroot and rocket all provide 250 milligrams per 100 grams.
How To Supplement – Even if you’re hitting the daily goal, boosting intake can enhance athletic performance. Men in a UK study who drank beet juice containing about 800 milligrams of nitrates daily for a week had better sprint performance and reaction times.
Our Pick – Solgar Beetroot Extract (R170, Wellness Warehouse).
It keeps your brain’s spark plugs (the neurotransmitters) firing so information can be relayed. Even a mild B12 deficiency can speed cognitive decline with ageing. B12 is also required for proper red blood cell formation.
Get It Naturally – Eat more steak. Meat and seafood are the main sources of B12, and carnivores can easily reach their daily 2.4 micrograms by enjoying a 170g serving of top sirloin (2.8 micrograms) or canned tuna (2.5).
How To Supplement – If your diet is light on meat and fish, ask to have your B12 levels checked the next time you have blood work done. If you’re low, then yes, a supplement can help protect your brain and blood.
Our Pick – Vitabiotics B Complex, 60 tablets (R81, Dis-Chem).
The sunshine vitamin improves your mood and lowers your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, says Michael Holick, of Boston University Medical Centre Hospital and author of The Vitamin D Solution.
Get It Naturally – Unless you’re routinely outside and shirtless between 10 am and 3 pm, you’re probably falling short, says Dr Holick. Add D-rich foods like fortified dairy and fatty fish (e.g. salmon) to your diet.
How To Supplement – Technically, fortified dairy is a supplement: milk has about 100 IU of vitamin D per cup. But that’s far below the 1 500 to 2 000 IU a day the Endocrine Society recommends. Popping extra D can help.
Our Pick – Foodstate Vitamin D3 Complex (R110, Dis-Chem)
It helps prevent calcium buildup in your arteries. In one study, people who consumed the least K were nearly three times as likely to develop heart disease as those who took in the most.
Get It Naturally – Never skimp on the salad course. A mere cup of raw kale provides 113 micrograms of vitamin K – that’s 94% of your daily requirement. Spinach and cabbage are also great sources.
How To Supplement – Adults need 120 micrograms a day, but the average man falls short with just 85. So supplement with at least 45 micrograms of K2, the type your body absorbs best, says Cees Vermeer, founder of the R&D Group VitaK at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
Our Pick – Solal Vitamin K2, 200 mcg (R140, Dis-Chem).
As antioxidants go, zinc is powerful stuff. It’s found in every cell, assists in healing wounds and helps beat sneaky viruses. And if you want to have kids, know this: zinc also improves sperm quality.
Get It Naturally – Aim for 11 milligrams of zinc daily; six oysters have about triple that. Bonus: your body can bank some of the excess, says David Killilea, who studies nutritional metals.
How To Supplement – If you’ve noticed your energy and sex drive flagging, turn to foods or supplements that contain both zinc and copper to help support cells in your reproductive and central nervous systems. The two work in concert; supplementing with zinc alone can result in a copper deficiency.
Our Pick – Viridian Zinc Complex (R130, Wellness Warehouse)