Nutrient deficiencies are far more common than you might think, especially in men. In fact, a lack of essential vitamins and minerals could be the reason you’re not feeling your best. Multivitamins for men are often marketed as a way to skirt around an inadequate diet, but the jury is still out on whether they’re actually beneficial.
Furthermore, your body is designed to take in only so much of any one vitamin. Any amount above that will either come out in your urine or be stored in your liver and fatty tissues.
Therefore, focusing on nutrient-dense, whole foods to act as your multivitamin may be the best approach.
This is difficult if you follow the standard American diet (SAD), which is high in added sugar, saturated fat, and calories but low in nutrients.
Studies have shown that about 77% of men don’t get enough magnesium, while many are also deficient in vitamins D and B12. This can become increasingly problematic with age, as men tend to eat less often while consuming more of the same foods.
But guess what? The best multivitamin for men over 40 just might be the best multivitamin for men over 50. And it might look a little more like a Cobb salad than you’d like to believe!
Essential Vitamins for Men’s Health
Men don’t necessarily need a different set of vitamins than women; they just tend to need them in different amounts. For example, women are at higher risk of an iron deficiency than men. On the other hand, men may face a higher risk of a magnesium deficiency.
Let’s take a look at some of the important vitamins and minerals men may need to pay a little more attention to.
Men and women are equally at risk of vitamin D deficiency; however, the effects may be slightly different.
One of the requirements of vitamin D for men is testosterone production. Testosterone is far more prevalent in men, and it impacts mood, sex drive, fat storage, muscle mass, and a number of other functions.
Overall, vitamin D is needed for bone strength and development, lowering inflammation and cholesterol, brain health, mood regulation, and managing blood pressure.
For men in particular, vitamin D’s effect on inflammation may be massive: there are studies showing that men deficient in vitamin D may be up to 80 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those with adequate amounts.
Some other areas where vitamin D may benefit men include:
- Sperm health
- Prostate health
- Muscle strength and quality
- Erectile dysfunction
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, so getting some direct exposure every day—10 to 30 minutes depending on your complexion—is recommended.
There are also small amounts in the following foods:
- Egg yolks
In the winter, when it’s colder and darker, a supplement is a good idea. An intake of 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day should maintain healthy levels.
B vitamins—particularly vitamins B6 and B12—are important for men to monitor. They’re essential for cell growth and maintenance and energy metabolism.
B12 deficiencies in men can be difficult to identify by looking at diet alone.
Most men are consuming the recommended amount of 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of B12 per day by way of eggs, beef, and chicken, yet absorption may be blocked due to certain medications. This is especially true for older men who may be taking a variety of prescriptions.
Drugs used to treat blood pressure and diabetes, as well as acid-blockers, can all influence how B12 is absorbed. When you don’t get enough B12, you can experience fatigue and lose brain volume at a faster rate. It’s possible that B12 is one of the most important vitamins for men over 60.
You can get vitamin B12 from animal proteins, but a fortified cereal may be your best option. B12 consumed in this fashion will likely be better absorbed. If you’re taking “Prilosec” or “Metformin” each day, talk to your doctor about tracking B12 levels and possibly taking a supplement.
Vitamin B6 is another product of the B complex that men should monitor—chiefly older men. Studies have shown that older men need more B6 than other cohorts, so if you’re 50 or over, aim for 1.7 milligrams (mg) per day.
B6 may aid in immune function and memory improvement, and it potentially offers some protection from dementia. Vitamin B for men may play an important role in longevity and quality of life.
Antioxidant Vitamins for Men
Antioxidants like vitamins A and C are very important for multiple reasons. They help protect cells against the danger of free radicals, which have the potential to drastically speed up the aging process.
A growing body of research also links free radical damage to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Getting enough of vitamins A and C can help older men fight off muscle loss and sarcopenia, protect healthy cells, battle inflammation to promote heart and brain health, keep arteries healthy, boost immunity, and promote vision.
Vitamin A is found in the following foods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Liver (beef, chicken, and fish)
Good sources of Vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, grapefruit)
- Brussels sprouts
Magnesium is involved in more than 300 bodily processes, and research has found that inadequate amounts may increase the blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is an inflammatory marker that’s closely associated with heart disease.
Surveys have shown that men only consume about 80% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium—which is 400 mg. The effect is that basically every cell in your body is struggling to generate enough energy to function effectively and keep you healthy.
Some of the effects of a magnesium deficiency include:
- Muscle twitches/spasms
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Poor sleep
Magnesium can be found in foods like:
- Navy beans
- Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables
This mineral can be tough to acquire, so taking a supplement in addition to a magnesium-rich diet is recommended. Get a magnesium citrate supplement; it’s absorbed best.
The No. 1 cause of death for men in the U.S. is heart disease. Vitamin K may help with prevention by promoting proper blood clotting and directing calcium to the bones and teeth rather than the arteries, where it can build up and lead to heart problems.
Some doctors recommend a diet rich in vitamin K for men because they generally require more than women. And a deficiency could be quite common.
Many men might be less inclined to have a salad or a yogurt when French fries or chips are on the menu. In fact, most men deficient in this nutrient don’t regularly consume dairy or vegetables. There is also an association between vitamin K deficiency and long-term medication use.
Introducing more vitamin K into your meals can be achieved by eating more green vegetables and dairy, as well as:
- Chicken breast
All in all, you should be getting 120 mcg per day (a little more than a half cup of broccoli).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have a multitude of benefits, and some are particularly important for aging individuals. Studies have shown that a healthy omega-3 intake can protect brain health and positively affect heart disease risk.
Omega-3s are found in:
- Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
- Fortified items
Omega-3s are particularly important for men because they tend to eat more omega-6s than women. Omega-6s aren’t necessarily harmful; they lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. However, they are far too prevalent in the modern Western diet.
Excessive amounts of the polyunsaturated fat are thought to contribute to system-wide inflammation.
The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats ranges from 2:1 to 4:1, while it’s estimated that some American men consume up to 10 times this amount.
Including more omega-3s in the diet may balance out the ratio to combat some of the inflammatory impacts of too many omega-6s.
Potassium is an important electrolyte that plays an essential role in keeping your heart beating and muscles contracting, while also being required for brain function and comprehension.
Most guys don’t get enough potassium, with surveys indicating that young men only get around 60% to 70% of the daily recommended 4,700 mg per day. And older men fare worse. Potassium works to offset the effects of a high-sodium diet (e.g. SAD) like high blood pressure.
Other impacts of low potassium include:
- Poor bone health
- Slow metabolism
- Poor digestion
- Muscle spasms
Potassium is widely available in food and is found in:
Eat These Foods to Meet the Daily Multivitamin Needs for Men
If you take a blood test that reveals you’re low in certain nutrients, supplementing can offer some benefit when combined with a healthy diet. Otherwise, simply eating a nutrient-dense diet is the way to go.
Here are some foods you can eat every day to ensure you’re getting everything you need to optimize health and functionality.
When you’re in need of a snack, reaching for a handful of almonds might be one of best decisions you can make. Full of healthy fats, vitamin E, and magnesium, they can help with cholesterol and body composition and contribute to your overall nutrient intake.
Shellfish like clams, mussels, oysters, and scallops are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. A handful of raw oysters, for example, has 10 times the RDA of vitamin B12, 15 times the RDA of zinc, five times the RDA of copper, and three times the RDA of selenium.
They are also rich in protein, omega-3, and are one of the rare food sources of vitamin D. Just be careful not to eat shellfish too often—it can contribute to gout.
Kale, another one of the most-nutrient dense foods on the planet, is rich in numerous vitamins valuable to men. One cup of kale has a whopping 900% of the RDA of vitamin K and 134% of your daily requirement of the antioxidant vitamin C.
Although it might not always be a crowd-pleaser, liver is by far the most nutrient-dense part of any animal. Liver is a superior source of vitamin B12, vitamin A, and copper.
If you really enjoy liver, limit your intake to once or twice per week. More than that and you could find yourself at risk of nutrient toxicity, which might cause health complications!
These small, oily fish can be polarizing. But if you’re looking strictly at nutritional value, there’s little debate.
Sardines are rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), essential omega-3 fatty acids that are linked to lower inflammation and heart and brain health.
One serving of sardines, which can be eaten from cans, grilled, smoked or pickled, has more than half the daily recommended amount of omega-3s and well over the recommendation of vitamin B12.
However, the reality is that these little fish are a good source of virtually every nutrient you need.
Yellow Bell Peppers
Yellow bell peppers are rich in vitamin C and can add to your daily total of vitamins A and B6, too. One yellow bell pepper has about six times the recommended amount of vitamin C, which is way more than you’d find in an orange.
Slicing one up to put on a salad or sauté as a side dish is a really easy way to boost your intake of this valuable nutrient.
Prebiotic- and Probiotic-Rich Foods
Vitamins and nutrients are the key to health, but they cannot do their required jobs if they’re not being absorbed. Probiotics are the good bacteria and yeasts that inhabit the digestive tract, helping the body break down hard-to-digest foods.
Probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods can help improve the population of gut bacteria responsible for nutrient absorption.
Prebiotic-rich foods, like those high in fiber, can feed the population so they stay healthy and proliferate.
Make Your Diet Your Multivitamin
You know what? If the food you eat doesn’t have a big ad campaign behind it, you should probably be eating it. Fast food restaurants and multivitamins often have big money behind them, while you almost never see a commercial for nutrient-dense, whole foods.
Save some money and take the best multivitamin available for men: a healthy and nutritious diet. Supplements have their place among those with deficiencies caused by health conditions, but most men should be able to get their required nutrients from food alone.
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