What vitamins and minerals should I take?

The purpose of this page is to respond to the question, “What vitamins and minerals should I take?” 

It is to provide a single webpage to help Americans ignore the overwhelming number of pills/supplements available.

 


 

Table of Contents

 


Disclaimer

Neither the FDA, the U.N., nor superman has evaluated the statements contained on this website, and they are only intended to serve as a starting point for safe self-experimentation. Talk with your physician before buying, touching, talking about, or even thinking about any pill or nutritional supplement. While you're scheduling that appointment, be sure to schedule an appointment with your priest or pastor, lawyer, elementary school principal, and city mayor before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. For more sarcasm and philosophy regarding worthless health disclaimers everyone already ignores, see the /disclaimer page.


Introduction: “I’m not rich. Where do I start?”

Below are three examples for American budgets. These should help those in various financial positions.
  • Budget A) less than $10/month for nutritional supplements

 

  • Budget B) less than $50/month for nutritional supplements

 

  • Budget C) more than $50/month for nutritional supplements

Budget A: less than $10/month. Start here!

The vast majority of westerners with less than $10 a month should probably prioritize lithium as a supplement to their diets.  Magnesium or Vitamin D might be equally important, but since:
  • a) so little is known about lithium as a nutrient,
  • b) it appears to be involved in neuronal development, which means everything, and
  • c) foods high in lithium may already be cost-prohibitive (read: expensive),
  • d) some processed foods are fortified with magnesium, but none are fortified with lithium,
  • d) vitamin D is free with adequate sunlight

…lithium is likely the highest priority nutrient for most people.

The risks are nonexistent, and the potential rewards are enormous. If I only had $10 to spend on a nutritional supplement, lithium is without a doubt the first place I’d start.
Notes:
  1. 1mg/day of lithium isn’t going to “mellow” you out, make you docile, turn you into a drug-induced hippie, or other such nonsense. That’s prescription lithium: 100mg/day, 300mg/day, or more.
  2. Remember that the provisional RDA of 1mg/day for a 70kg (154lbs) adult is likely a very conservative number. The researcher who recommended that number as the RDA himself noted lithium at ~3mg per liter in the water supplies in some countries like Chile (and a human might easily drink several liters in one day). The EPA noted decades earlier up to 3mg/day intake, although depleted soil levels likely mean most Americans should absolutely supplement.
  3. Convince yourself of lithium’s importance on the /lithium page (with references galore), then consider the supplement I use ($8, amazon.com link). I take one 5-mg pill every 5 days, although one every 2-3 days is probably safe for older Americans. See the /headaches page in case you initially experience a very mild headache when beginning supplementation (it’s a good thing, in my opinion).
  4. I recommend you make an informed, adult decision based on the science on the /lithium page, and then tell your doctor about your nutritional decision.
Long-term goals:
  • Food: put more of your weekly and monthly budgets into higher quality foods, like high-quality meats, greens like spinach and broccoli, and fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Don’t worry about the rest of this page until you’re noticing positive differences in your health. There’s too much information here to be absorbed at once!
In summary: if you have less than $10 per month to spend and have a poor diet, nutritional lithium is probably the most important supplement. 

Budget B: Less than $50/month:

  1. Lithium: Start with the above: lithium. Jump to lithium.
  2. Vitamin D: Your doctor should be able to give you a vitamin D test, and you should already know if you’re getting adequate sunlight during the average month or year. Vitamin D might be more important than the below minerals for you, but it might not. I trust my body over my vitamin D laboratory results. Jump to Vitamin D.
  3. Magnesium: As examine.com notes, this is the 2nd most common deficiency in western nations. Its importance is tantamount, and doctors are only slowly beginning to accept the early research. Jump to magnesium.
  4. Calcium: Most westerners consume the majority of their calcium intake through dairy. How much calcium are you consuming, and is it enough? (I supplement with calcium partially because I consume little to no dairy, but this page isn’t the place for my thoughts regarding this topic.) Jump to calcium.
  5. Salt: do not ignore a quality salt! Jump to salt.
Long-term goals:
  • Food: Continue increasing weekly and monthly food budgets into high quality foods. Be skeptical of any food that has a package, label, or “health” claim on it. Most farmers don’t spend money on marketing, only large companies do that.
  • Re-read this page, and feel free to /contact me with your experiences or questions. Moreover, have you read the /health page? Other health factors are probably more important than more supplements. There is no magic pill.
In summary: if you have less than $50 per month to spend, and are already supplementing with lithium, look into magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D. Finally, do not ignore a high quality salt.

Budget C: Over $50/month:

  1. Start with the above: lithium; vitamin D, magnesium, calcium; and salt.
  2. Consider pairing Vitamin K to the Vitamin D and Calcium you already take.
    • There are researchers who argue that vitamin K (MK-4 and MK-7 in particular) is critical to supplement because nobody eats enough through leafy greens alone. Then there are other researchers who argue that this issue isn’t critical for most of us and that the microbes in our colons produce enough. This probably isn’t worth your time if you aren’t regularly lifting weights by now. (Lifting weights is far better for bone health than supplements or dairy products!) But if you have the money to spend, it may be worth considering.
    • Again, pair vitamin K, calcium, and vitamin D together. Jump to Vitamin K.
  3. You may find a benefit from Iron and/or Zinc. Read those sections and decide. As an athletic male, I’ve been surprised by the positive effects I notice from both iron and zinc supplementation. Jump to Iron. Jump to Zinc.
    1. Pair both with the vitamin C from acidic fruit and related foods.
  4. You may also find a benefit from omega-3 supplementation, although it may not not be as important as many believe. Jump to omega-3.
Goals:
  • You’ve read the /health page, right? While additional dietary supplements may be useful, there are no magic pills. Worse, more pills will not correct underlying health problems solved by lifestyle changes or a doctor’s visit.
  • Reduce vitamin D supplementation by getting weekly sun exposure. Long-term, shoot for daily sun exposure.
  • Reduce magnesium supplementation by eating more spinach and other magnesium containing plant foods. (Note: I still supplement with magnesium.)
  • Re-read the rest of the page, and feel free to contact me about your experiences with other vitamins and supplements. I don’t recommend probiotics, trace minerals, or ginko balboa for most people, but that doesn’t mean a probiotic or selenium supplement won’t improve your health in certain situations.
Remember that the goal is to consume all our nutrition through food without pills. At this point, I’d love to converse with fellow “experts” of their own bodies to know how you reduced supplementing with X/Y, or Z in order to collate all our wisdom into this website! (This is especially true for menstruating females (see a related essay), as I’d love to learn about varying nutritional needs throughout menstruation.) Please /contact me.
In summary, if you have more than $50/month to spend on dietary supplements, you should focus on the important few above, but please remember: don’t get overwhelmed by the number of supplements that exist! Focus on the /health page if you’re not satisfied with your health, and wait a few months before diving in deeper. 

 


#1: Lithium

External Links:
  • Examine.com does not yet have a page dedicated to lithium. For now, I continue building my /lithium page with scientific references.
  • Labdoor.com: N/A, as labdoor does not yet test magnesium.
What do I need to know?
  • Lithium is an essential dietary mineral, like sodium, potassium, calcium, or magnesium, and its provisional RDA is 1mg/day.
  • As a nutrient, lithium is involved in neuronal (brain) function, depression, aggression, pregnancy, suicide, and more. See /lithium.
Are there any prejudices I should know about?
  • As an english word, “lithium” has become synonymous with “crazy,” “bipolar,” “medicated patient,” and other terms, often derogatory. The very history of lithium is one of prejudice. The suffering inflicted on western populations by ignoring this nutrient for the past several decades is a very sad story.
  • As such, all of us need to redefine the word “lithium” in our minds with “just another nutrient/mineral, like calcium, magnesium, iron, or the elements in salt.” Lithium is nothing more (unless prescribed by a doctor at levels 100-300x), and nothing less.
  • The graph below compares nutritional lithium (left) with lithium as a drug (right). See the /lithium page for the details.

How important is this?
  • Many Americans are likely critically deficient. The most deficient Americans end up as statistics: nearly 1% of our national population lives in prisons, and 113 Americans per day commit suicide.
  • Thus, until population-wide deficiencies are corrected, lithium is likely the most important nutrient of our generation.
How much should I take?
  • The provisional RDA recommended by a trace mineral researcher, given in 2002, was 1mg/day for a 70kg (154lb) adult. Given the available evidence, that RDA seems extremely sound and even conservative for most adults. 2-3mg/day is probably safe for at least short periods of time, especially for seniors.
  • For most adults, that 1mg/day is perfectly safe.
  • For Weyland’s 5mg lithium orotate ($8, amazon.com link), take one 5 mg pill every 2-5 days:
When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • If you’re nervous about taking a new supplement, take lithium with a light meal. There may be evidence that it is better absorbed with small amounts of fat, but I’m not yet convinced.
  • As a nutrient found in naturally occurring water supplies, it seems reasonable that lithium at normal 1-5mg levels could be taken without food. Indeed, I’ve taken 5mg lithium orotate on an empty stomach with no effects noted.
  • Be patient with a nutritional lithium supplement. You may need to wait a month or more to notice the effects.
My Personal Experiences:
  • Lithium has consistently proven to be the most important nutrient I’d never heard of.
  • See my perspectives on a minor headache experienced when first supplementing here: /headaches.
I’ve also tried:
  • Good State’s liquid lithium ($22, amazon.com link) (for children or more exact dosing).
    • I’m still experimenting and cannot recommend this until I’m sure or not. Check back in mid-June 2017.
  • Solray’s 5mg lithium aspartate ($8, amazon.com link)
    • [20 April update: I don’t recommend this. I supplemented with 5mg/day for 4 consecutive days and observed no positive or negative effects on myself. The authors of a nutritional lithium book recommend against the aspartate molecule, but I wanted to do the quick n=1 on myself anyway. As such, I do not recommend you waste your money unless you specifically need the aspartate molecule.]

Again, see the /lithium page for more. The page has dozens of scientific references, but it is written for the general public.

 


#2: “Hormone” D (previously vitamin D)

 External Links:
Important Note:
Note: In biology, a "vitamin" is a substance the body cannot make by itself. "Vitamin D," produced by the skin, is technically a hormone, like testosterone or estrogen. With sufficient sunlight exposure, a human easily generates enough, and it will be referred to as "Hormone D" in this section.
See http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/88/2/491S.full for a clinical reference.
What do I need to know?
  • This molecule is a hormone, not a vitamin.

 

Are there any prejudices I should know about?
  • There are three main prejudice regarding hormone D. All prejudices are incorrect:
    1. Prejudice: as a “vitamin,” we can eat sufficient quantities through a “healthy” diet.
      • This is incorrect because the molecule is a hormone produced by the skin, not a vitamin supplied through the diet. No one should rely on “fortified” processed food products to supply adequate levels of hormone D.
    2. Prejudice: we generate enough hormone D with very minimal or occasional exposure to sunlight.
      • This is incorrect, because the quantity of hormone D produced by our skin is incredibly complicated. Search the web for “vitamin D sun calculator” and you’ll quickly realize the complexities of getting enough sun exposure. Most of us are not in the sun enough.
    3. Prejudice: supplementing with hormone D is all we need to do to continue avoiding sunlight.
      • This is incorrect, because scientists are slowly learning that the benefits of sunlight are not simply the molecule hormone D, but that blue-light exposure to our eyes and other aspects are beneficial to human health. At a societal level, a fear of the sun, sunglasses, and sunscreens are likely doing more harm than good to our health.
  • See the sunlight section on my /health page for more.
How important is this?
  • It’s critically important: hormone D levels are involved with lifespan, the brain, the lungs, bones, other hormones, obesity, and more.
  • In my opinion, lithium, magnesium, and hormone D are our three most important supplements. Calcium may be equally important for some people.
How much should I take?
  • Most Americans adults can safely take 1,000IU/day. 
  • Checking hormone D levels is a very simple blood test, and doctors are finally beginning to become comfortable with this nutrient. Adjust up or down based on blood levels.
    • Decrease to 400IU/day or less if blood levels are high.
    • Increase to 1,500-2,000IU/day if levels are low, but do this while discussing the practice with your doctor. This is because there may be other factors influencing blood levels.
  • Remember: hormone D supplementation is not a substitute for sun exposure!
  • Although a single intake of 5-10,000IU at once appears to be safe, the scientific evidence is still very early regarding how effective this is over the long term. As such, I’ve changed my mind and now believe it is far wiser to supplement daily at the lower levels above.
When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • Take it in the morning with a light meal containing adequate amounts of fat.
  • Pair it with calcium and vitamin K, if supplementing those nutrients.

 

My Personal Experiences:
  • I’ve actually overdosed, which was a good learning experience for me. I was taking 2,000IU/day for several months while living at a high altitude location. There, I also was getting 30 minutes – 1 hour+ of direct sunlight per day, around noontime, on most of my body. At this altitude, there’s about 25% less atmosphere, which means the sun is also that much stronger! After a few months I noticed a strange tingling in a few joints…something I’d never felt before. There was no noticeable impact to my physical performance in the gym or elsewhere. After some searching online I found that the cause might be excessively high levels of hormone D, and I performed a blood test. Whereas “deficient” values typically are below 30, and “normal” values typically range from 30-100, with 50-100 potentially being too high, my value was 99! I stopped supplementation and within a week or so the odd tingling went away.
I’ve also tried:
  • I’ve used a huge variety of various products over the years. See labdoor’s rankings above, then get one from Amazon or another good retailer.
  • Here’s a link to shop vitamin D on Amazon. Two good options:

#3: Calcium and Magnesium

 

Calcium and Magnesium: Ratios

You may need to take calcium:magnesium in a 2:1 ratio (twice the amount of calcium as magnesium), a 1:1 ratio, or even a 1:2 ratio (twice the amount of magnesium).

If you are aware of research regarding proper calcium and magnesium ratios, please /contact me. Achieving optimal ratios seems very difficult. I am no expert, and I believe each individual needs to experiment within safe ranges.

 

Calcium and Magnesium: Quantities

The intestinal transporter for Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, and other minerals is shared, can only transport 800mg combined minerals in a meal, and transports those minerals randomly, to my knowledge.

What does that mean?

It means that you can’t take more than a certain combined amount (800mg) in one meal between those minerals. So when you include those minerals in the food from the meal you ate, it’s not wise to take more than 3-400 milligrams of combined Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc/Iron. Taking Zinc/Iron separate from Calcium/Magnesium is a good idea, as is never taking more than 200mg of supplemental Calcium and 200mg of supplemental Magnesium together.

 

Calcium and Magnesium: Blood Tests

Calcium and Magnesium are difficult to test in the blood, although two blood tests exist for magnesium (“magnesium” and “RBC magnesium”) and the second may be useful for checking magnesium status. Still, due to various forms of magnesium and use/storage in tissues throughout the body, it is possible that a “RBC Magnesium” test may not be enough to determine magnesium status.

Know thyself!

 

Calcium

External Links:

 

What do I need to know?
  • Calcium is an important macro-mineral used throughout the body, and many adults may not be consuming enough through food.

 

Are there any prejudices I should know about?

There are at least three:

  1. Prejudice: Calcium is only important for strong bones, so it’s not important for me.
    • Response: Calcium may be stored in the bones, but it is used throughout the body. See the next section.
  2. Prejudice: Calcium is only important for old ladies, so it’s not important for me.
    • Response: Calcium is equally important for all adults, although females may have slightly higher requirements.
  3. Prejudice: I eat dairy, so I don’t need to pay attention to this.
    • Response: This is not necessarily true: you are not necessarily consuming sufficient calcium simply because of occasional (or even daily) dairy intake. (I’ve removed my personal thoughts regarding dairy. If this is important to you, please /contact me and I’ll write a section (maybe even a video if asked) regarding dairy.)

 

How important is this?
  • Calcium is involved in cellular signaling, neurons, muscle cells, human development, and more. The mineral may be stored in the bones, but calcium is used throughout the body, including the brain. It is critical.

 

How much should I take?
  • Like all minerals, calcium intake is best achieved through the diet. The adult RDA is generally over 1,000mg (1 gram) per day.
  • However, if you choose to supplement, I recommend being very conservative. It is not recommended to take more than 200mg of supplemental calcium at one time. Also, I would not personally advise more than 400mg total supplemental calcium in one day, or more than 200mg through supplements at any one meal. Feel free to talk with your doctor about this website.

 

When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • Take calcium with vitamin D, and vitamin K (if you are purchasing that), and a meal containing at least some amount of fat.

 

I’ve used:
  • Rainbow Light’s Calcium Citrate ($13, amazon.com link), currently preferred. It’s #3 on labdoor’s rankings, and I chose it because it doesn’t contain magnesium or huge amounts of vitamin D, which I prefer to take separately. (It appears the negative reviews on amazon.com are mostly about a large pill size and other ingredients, none of which worry me.)
  • Bulk Supplements Pure’s Calcium Citrate Powder ($11/bag, amazon.com link)

Magnesium

 

External Links:

 

What do I need to know?
  • Examine.com notes a few studies which show that magnesium is the #2 nutrient deficiency in the country (after vitamin d). (I would argue that lithium deficiency is equally important to those two, if not more important, but few are paying attention to /lithium as a nutrient. )
  • An enzyme is a protein that does something or changes something inside the body. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymes in the body, which should indicate its importance.
  • Forms of magnesium include -glycinate, -aspartate, -arginate, -lactate, -oxide, -citrate, -malate, -orotate, -carbonate, salts and more. See below for the few I prefer to use to supplement.
  • Magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed, is likely added to products simply because it is cheap, and may not be at all effective.

 

Are there any prejudices I should know about?
  • Luckily, there seem to be few prejudices about magnesium in the American population. Please /contact me if I am incorrect.

 

How important is this?
  • Due to deficiency rates and its importance in the body, supplementing with magnesium is critically important for most people.

 

How much should I take?
  • 200-300mg/day for a short time while deficiencies are corrected is likely safe.
  • In the long term, I recommend increasing food sources of magnesium and reducing supplementation if possible. I still haven’t succeeded at this myself, and still supplement with 50-150mg/day, alternating between vary sources (see the products I use below). (Some, like Dr. Peter Attia, consume larger quantities (600-800mg/day) of magnesium, although he consumes magnesium oxide, which is very poorly absorbed. It is possible that some level of magnesium oxide is useful for gut bacterial functions, and I may test this idea on myself soon.)
  • It is not recommended to take more than 200mg of supplemental magnesium at one time. Also, I would not personally advise more than 400mg total supplemental magnesium in one day, or more than 200mg through supplements at any one meal. Feel free to talk with your doctor about this website.
  • Vary your sources of magnesium supplements. See below.

 

When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • Take with an average meal.
  • Early magnesium supplementation may lead to drowsiness. If you suspect you aren’t eating enough magnesium through food, it’s wise to begin supplementation with dinner when you are able to sleep for a long duration, just in case.

 

My Personal Experiences:
  • I first began magnesium supplementation in 2015 in South America, where I noticed its effects on my sleep quality.
  • Like many others, I know I’m correcting a slight magnesium deficiency when I take it with dinner and quickly become sleepy (faster than usual). Long term, if I am well rested, this does not happen.

 

I use (or have used): (3 preferred products bolded)

  • KAL’s Magnesium Orotate ($11/bottle, amazon.com link) or Bulk Supplements’ Pure Magnesium Orotate Powder (amazon.com link). I like the -orotate form of magnesium and it seems to be a good long-term “maintenance” option.
  • Doctor’s Best Magnesium Glycinate/Lysinate ($13, amazon.com link). I’ve gone on-and-off with long periods with/without this. It seems like a good long-term maintenance option, and it clearly corrects an acute magnesium deficiency for many people.
  • Life Extension Magnesium L-threonate ($23, or $0.26/pill, amazon.com link).
    • Supposedly this is the form most available either for transport to or for use by the brain.
    • It’s expensive (roughly $0.25/pill), but both myself and my partner seem to like a very low dose (one pill a day or less) for cognitive function. It’s possible it’s a placebo effect, but I doubt it. I seem to notice less difference with a strong cup of green tea or coffee if I’m taking magnesium L-threonate that week. Too much is unknown about coffee and teas, so I strongly prefer a low-dose of this. Don’t forget about /lithium, too.
  • Thorne Research Magnesium Citrate-Malate ($14, amazon.com link).
  • Nutramedix Magnesium malate ($16, amazon.com link).
  • Bathing with Magnesium salts ($20/3lb bag, amazon.com link). I don’t know much about magnesium absorption through the skin, but I do enjoy the bath. Feel like a king or queen with a 25-cent bath!

 

Probably Important: Salt

 

External Links:
  • Examine.com: N/A
  • Labdoor.com: N/A

 

What do I need to know?
  • Salt is the primary source of sodium and chloride in the diet.
  • Throughout its history, salt has been so important that battles have been fought over it.
  • Today in the west, salt is stigmatized as being unhealthy, when in reality, it is likely over-processed white salt and, separately, foods overly salted with this processed salt which are problematic.
Are there any prejudices I should know about?
  • Salt is almost as prejudiced as /lithium in the United States. This is sad, because salt is the primary source of both sodium and chloride — two macro-minerals critical to health. Links to heart disease appear to be incredibly complicated (in other words: there are many causes of heart problems, and processed white salt is likely problematic) and at worst, completely unfounded (in other words: eat as much salt as we want).
How important is this?
  • As the primary source of both sodium and chloride ions in the diet, switching to a high quality salt may be one of the simplest (and tastiest!) actions for better health.

 

How much should I take?
  • A common RDA for sodium is 2 grams per day for an adult, and for chloride, 2.3 grams per day.
  • After purchasing a high quality salt (see below), I recommend the following methodology for salt intake:
    • How salty is the food?
      • Too salty? Use less salt.
      • Not salty enough? Use more salt.

 

When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • With food.

 

My Personal Experiences:
  • I started using a high-quality Himalayan salt in 2013 or earlier, and only in 2017 did I realize the importance salt has likely had on my health as an adult.

 

I use:
  • I’ve purchased table salt from both The Spice Lab ($5/lb, amazon link) and Real Salt ($10/lb, amazon link), with little preference, although I do enjoy manually grinding the former.
  • If you need a salt grinder, we’re very satisfied with our salt and pepper grinders from Willow & Everett ($18, amazon.com link).

 

Note regarding trace minerals:
  • Most “natural” salts do not contain iodine (iodide). As such, you may wish to eat more high-iodine foods like seaweed in your dietJump down to the miscellaneous section, which includes iodine.
  • Supposedly there are trace minerals like lithium, calcium, and more contained in certain “natural” salts. Portland’s The Meadow has an analysis here, but that is by no means representative of all such salts. However, I’m skeptical that the levels of trace minerals present in these “raw” salts are significant from a dietary perspective. Sodium chloride. That’s table salt. Don’t risk your health on the idea that you’re getting enough of any other essential mineral through your salt.

 

 


 

Possibly Important: Calcium

 

Calcium and Magnesium: Ratios

You may need to take calcium:magnesium in a 2:1 ratio (twice the amount of calcium as magnesium), a 1:1 ratio, or even a 1:2 ratio (twice the amount of magnesium).

If you are aware of research regarding proper calcium and magnesium ratios, please /contact me. Achieving optimal ratios seems very difficult. I am no expert, and I believe each individual needs to experiment within safe ranges.

 

Calcium and Magnesium: Quantities

The intestinal transporter for Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, and other minerals is shared, can only transport 800mg combined minerals in a meal, and transports those minerals randomly, to my knowledge.

What does that mean?

It means that you can’t take more than a certain combined amount (800mg) in one meal between those minerals. So when you include those minerals in the food from the meal you ate, it’s not wise to take more than 3-400 milligrams of combined Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc/Iron. Taking Zinc/Iron separate from Calcium/Magnesium is a good idea, as is never taking more than 200mg of supplemental Calcium and 200mg of supplemental Magnesium together.

 

Calcium and Magnesium: Blood Tests

Calcium and Magnesium are difficult to test in the blood, although two blood tests exist for magnesium (“magnesium” and “RBC magnesium”) and the second may be useful for checking magnesium status. Still, due to various forms of magnesium and use/storage in tissues throughout the body, it is possible that a “RBC Magnesium” test may not be enough to determine magnesium status.

Know thyself!

 

Calcium

External Links:

 

What do I need to know?
  • Calcium is an important macro-mineral used throughout the body, and many adults may not be consuming enough through food.

 

Are there any prejudices I should know about?

There are at least three:

  1. Prejudice: Calcium is only important for strong bones, so it’s not important for me.
    • Response: Calcium may be stored in the bones, but it is used throughout the body. See the next section.
  2. Prejudice: Calcium is only important for old ladies, so it’s not important for me.
    • Response: Calcium is equally important for all adults, although females may have slightly higher requirements.
  3. Prejudice: I eat dairy, so I don’t need to pay attention to this.
    • Response: This is not necessarily true: you are not necessarily consuming sufficient calcium simply because of occasional (or even daily) dairy intake.

 

How important is this?
  • Calcium is involved in cellular signaling, neurons, muscle cells, human development, and more. The mineral may be stored in the bones, but calcium is used throughout the body, including the brain. It is critical.

 

How much should I take?
  • Like all minerals, calcium intake is best achieved through the diet. The adult RDA is generally over 1,000mg (1 gram) per day.
  • However, if you choose to supplement, I recommend being very conservative. It is not recommended to take more than 200mg of supplemental calcium at one time. Also, I would not personally advise more than 400mg total supplemental calcium in one day, or more than 200mg through supplements at any one meal. Feel free to talk with your doctor about this website.

 

When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • Take calcium with vitamin D, and vitamin K (if you are purchasing that), and a meal containing at least some amount of fat.

 

I’ve used:
  • Rainbow Light’s Calcium Citrate ($13, amazon.com link), currently preferred. It’s #3 on labdoor’s rankings, and I chose it because it doesn’t contain magnesium or huge amounts of vitamin D, which I prefer to take separately. (It appears the negative reviews on amazon.com are mostly about a large pill size and other ingredients, none of which worry me.)
  • Bulk Supplements Pure’s Calcium Citrate Powder ($11/bag, amazon.com link)

Possibly Important: Zinc

External Links:

 

What do I need to know?
  • Although many Americans may not be consuming sufficient zinc and iron, the above micronutrients are likely more important.

 

Are there any prejudices I should know about?
  • I know of no major prejudices regarding zinc.

 

How important is this?
  • Zinc is involved in hundreds of enzymes and potentially thousands of proteins in the body.
  • Examine.com’s thinking is that zinc may be useful for athletes who sweat a lot and who don’t eat enough seafood. I disagree, although zinc appears to be far less important than lithium, vitamin D, magnesium, and the others noted above.

 

How much should I take?
  • A safe adult RDA is about 10mg of zinc. Taking more (20-30mg/day) for 1-2 consecutive weeks may give you an idea of the effects of higher zinc intake, and is likely very safe.
  • After obtaining adequate intake of major nutrients (proteins and fats), macro-minerals (like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and salt) and other major nutrients (like lithium and vitamin D), you might consider the following:
    • Alternate one-week “on” and one-week “off” with 200-300% of your RDA, per day, for micro-minerals like zinc and iron. Consider this, too, for other trace minerals, such as boron, vanadium, etc.
  • Taking more than 2x (say, 40mg-100mg in one day) is likely safe for very short periods of time, but should be avoided long term.

 

When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • Take zinc with food, as most people should not take zinc on an empty stomach.
  • Be careful not to take with excess calcium, magnesium, or iron, as zinc and iron may not be fully absorbed. See those sections above.

 

My Personal Experiences:
  • I’ve noticed improved poop quality when taking the below Garden of Life zinc for multiple consecutive days.

 

I’ve used:

Possibly Important: Iron

 

External Links:
  • Examine.com: Iron page
  • Labdoor.com: N/A for Iron

 

What do I need to know?
  • Although many Americans may not be consuming sufficient zinc and iron, the above micronutrients are likely more important.

 

Are there any prejudices I should know about?
  • Some minor prejudices exist regarding iron supplementation, namely that iron supplements are only for menstruating women or those who are anemic. Both are untrue, and many might benefit from increased iron intake.

 

How important is this?
  • Iron is involved in hundreds of enzymes.
  • Most conservative websites — including examine.com — do not recommend iron supplementation. I disagree: as a physically active male, I have noticed increased long-term energy with short-term iron supplementation. If you have the money, it is worth considering, although iron appears to be far less important than lithium, vitamin D, magnesium, and the others noted above.

 

How much should I take?
  • The RDA is about 10mg/day for men, and about 20mg for menstruating women. Lookup your specific RDA for your health needs.
  • After obtaining adequate intake of major nutrients (proteins and fats), macro-minerals (like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and salt) and other major nutrients (like lithium and vitamin D), you might consider the following:
    • Alternate one-week “on” and one-week “off” with 200-300% of your RDA, per day, for micro-minerals like zinc and iron. Consider this, too, for other trace minerals, such as boron, vanadium, etc.

 

When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • Pair iron with foods containing vitamin C, like citrus fruits.
  • Be careful not to take with excess calcium, magnesium, or iron, as zinc and iron may not be fully absorbed. See those sections above.

 

My Personal Experiences:
  • When I was living at altitude (2,500+ meters), iron was the first and most important supplement that made me feel like a normal healthy “me” again — after months of “adapting” to altitude. (Iron, along with magnesium, made me realize that my master’s in biology counts for nothing if I do not experiment on myself and continually update my knowledge.)
  • My partner strongly prefers high-iron containing foods like liver about a week before her period, and we both notice benefits from minor supplementation, even living at sea level again.

 

I’ve used:

 


Possibly Important: Vitamin K

 

WARNING: IF YOU ARE TAKING WARFARIN OR A SIMILAR DRUG, DO NOT EXPERIMENT WITH HIGH DOSAGES OF VITAMIN K. See mayoclinic.org for more. Typical supplementation with 100% levels of vitamin K should be safe, but if you are taking warfarin or a similar drug, talk to your doctor first.

 

External Links:

 

What do I need to know?
  • Vitamin K is involved in calcium transport, and is best taken with calcium and vitamin D.
  • Vitamin K exists in many forms, and almost no one needs to supplement with K-1. K-2, however, includes multiple subtypes, including MK-4 and MK-7, which are commonly supplemented.
  • There are researchers adamant in two camps regarding vitamin K:
    • A) Vitamin K is one of the most under-supplemented vitamins necessary to transport calcium into cells, and almost no one is consuming enough through their diet, and
    • B) Vitamin K supplementation is completely unnecessary, and almost everyone eats enough if they consume leafy greens on occasion.

 

Are there any prejudices I should know about?
  • I know of no major prejudices about vitamin K, other than the idea that most people consume enough through daily leafy greens, which may be untrue.

 

How important is this?
  • As vitamin K and vitamin D are involved in calcium metabolism, see the importance of those respective sections. It may be incredibly important.

 

How much should I take?

 

  • The RDAs for Vitamin K vary greatly based on subtype:
    • MK-4: roughly 1,500 mcg (micrograms, not to be confused with milligrams or mg)
    • MK-7: 100-300 mcg (micrograms)

 

When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • Vitamin K is best taken with calcium, vitamin D, and a meal containing some fat.

 

My Personal Experiences:
  • None. I haven’t yet become convinced that vitamin K is necessary in my personal diet, although I continue to experiment.

 

I’ve tried:

 

 


Possibly Important: Omega 3s

External Links:

 

What do I need to know?
  • A ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fats in the body closer to 1:1 is ideal. Many Americans have dangerous fatty acid ratio, like 5:1, 10:1, or even worse.
  • One method many use to “improve” this fatty acid ratio is to eat more fish and increase fish oil supplements. However, reducing poor quality meats (processed meats, conventionally raised animals, etc.) may be even more effective than simply supplementing with a pill.

 

Are there any prejudices I should know about?
  • Prejudice: fish oil is the solution to all of life’s health problems. Omega-3s have indeed been linked to a number of health issues. However, there’s a large fish oil industry happy to fund these scientific studies, and since the public doesn’t fund science, scientists are happy to use money for quality studies wherever it comes from. Consuming more omega-3s and less omega-6s does seem to be beneficial for health, but for many people with reasonable diets, fish oil may be overrated.
  • Prejudice: if I occasionally eat sushi or fish, I don’t need to supplement with fish oil. This truly depends on the individual’s diet overall. If it’s an excellent diet, with high-quality meats and plenty of vegetables and other plant foods, the individual may not need to spend the money on a fish oil supplement. However, a similar person eating fish with the exact same frequency but with a poor diet may very well benefit greatly from buying a fish oil supplement. Know thyself!

 

How important is this?
  • It may be one of the most important supplements to your health. Or it may not. I have prioritized this webpage based on my thoughts regarding the general population, not any one individual.

 

How much should I take?
  • Between 1-10g per day should be safe, especially if taken with food. (Yes, I wrote up to ten grams per day. It’s just fat!)
  • Look at the back label of your bottle for the EPA and DHA molecules: Omega 6s and “other omega-3s” aren’t what you want. Try to get a combined EPA+DHA of 1g (1,000mg). On the order of 100mg combined isn’t likely to even make a difference, let alone feel one in your health, so be skeptical of many products, which are simply aiming to sell you a bottle of worthless pills without significant amounts of high quality omega-3s inside (see the products I’ve used below).

 

When and how should I take this nutrient?
  • With a regular meal.

 

My Personal Experiences:
  • Since I started eating an “ancestral” diet in 2010, I’ve had a cyclic, on-again off-again relationship with fish oil for 2-9 months at a time. I don’t feel a big difference in my health while taking fish oil. Then, after another few months without it, the scientific studies prod me yet again, I look at my regular fish consumption (lacking), and decide to start taking it again. This strategy seems to work well for me long term.

 


Miscellaneous: Multivitamins, Trace Minerals, Probiotics, and More

 

Multivitamins

In three words? Multivitamins are crap.

Please allow me a few moments to clarify. Let’s imagine two different women.

 

The first woman is an average white American. She had a decent childhood with average parents and is able to cook at home a few days a week. She doesn’t follow a particular diet, but she “eats healthy,” in her own words. Still, she swings day-to-day and week-to-week between “dammit, I ate that whole tub of ice cream the other night!” and “I’ve cooked spaghetti squash with grass-fed ground beef and a spinach salad three nights in a row this week!”

This woman probably is wasting her time and money with a multivitamin, and her doctor knows it.

To her, I’d recommend sitting down for an hour or two and really reading this webpage in depth. Be skeptical. Am I correct? What needs to be adjusted? Please use the /contact page if there’s something I need to update.

 

The second woman is an American woman of a minority ethnicity. Perhaps she had good parents, but they struggled financially, and now she’s a parent herself, working two jobs and struggling to pay the rent. This woman would love to cook her family better food, but with their living situation, bills, and free time, “it will have to wait.” … Going to the doctor? She has a mental list of things she’d love to talk to the doctor about, but the kids and animals need to be tended to before she can even think about scheduling the appointment… and all this while on the commute between her first and second jobs or from the second job to the drive-through to pickup dinner before collapsing on the bed.

This woman might be a good candidate for temporary multivitamin usage, but she might not even know that because she probably never has a quality conversation with her doctor. And which multivitamin is she going to choose? Who should she trust? [Labdoor’s rankings are here.] Where will she get the money? Will someone steal a package if it arrives when no one’s home? Can she get four minutes alone in a grocery store to read labels and compare?

To her, I’d recommend:

  • Have a specific plan to “eat healthier” this year. My thoughts are on the /health page, but don’t let anyone tell you what a “healthy diet” means. You already know what it means. You already know what it means! You just need the space to think about it, fresh air to breathe, and room to walk and think. When possible, go to a safe park, walk around for a bit, and you’ll figure it out. There, bring a pen and piece of paper (not your smartphone) and write down how you want to improve your diet in the next year or two.
  • After making that plan, have a plan to reduce your multivitamin consumption. If you’re taking 100% of the multivitamin’s recommendation daily, perhaps say, “In x months, I’m going to reduce to 50% of these pills, and only take my multivitamin 5 days a week.” That’s a good start!

And that’s our “healthcare” situation.

Again, “most” Americans should focus on the essential minerals at the top of the page. I’m confident you’ll eventually buy more fruits and vegetables on your own, and your body’s need for vitamins A, B, C, E, and probably K will work itself out.

 

Trace Mineral Complexes

  • I’ve taken a few, like this one, but have never personally noticed any effects.
  • Opinion: a trace mineral complex — with or without iodine, depending on the opinion of your doctor — is likely a worthwhile, cheap investment for those with a very poor diet. In other words, the worse your health, the more you might benefit from a few weeks or months with a trace mineral complex. Still, this webpage is sorted based on likelihood and importance (lithium, magnesium, vitamin D, etc.) so focus on what’s most important before buying a bottle of trace minerals.
  • I occasionally use the concentrated liquid product Concentrace Trace Minerals Drop (amazon.com link), both because it is from a dried, mostly unrefined geologic source, and because that source contains lithium. Still, the magnesium level is too high to obtain any significant amount of lithium, and vice-versa. Moreover, after the strong taste is overcome, the only thing I noticed was darker colored urine. It may work better as a good plant food than a significant source of trace minerals for humans.
  • Selenium
    • Two or three brazil nuts, if they grew in soil rich in selenium, supposedly contain more than enough selenium for a day or longer.
    • I’ve never noticed a huge difference in my health with or without selenium through brazil nuts, eggs, other foods, or the above trace mineral product.
    • Remember: lithium, magnesium, and other minerals are probably more important than worrying about selenium. Take care of the big issues and the small ones often take care of themselves.
  • Iodine
    • Remember: lithium, magnesium, and other minerals are probably more important than worrying about iodine. Take care of the big issues and the small ones often take care of themselves.
    • I’ve tried to incorporate regular iodine (through seaweed and its byproducts) into my diet but have felt no difference either way. With a decent lifestyle (food, movement, happiness), most thyroid problems will likely work themselves out without the need for supplemental iodine.
    • The occasional seaweed consumption, whether through dried sushi seaweed, wet (or frozen/prepackaged) seaweed, or a seaweed snack like this one or this one, should provide enough iodine. But I am not an endocrinologist, and if you have thyroid problems, you should consult such an expert. Additionally, may I recommend The Paleo Thyroid Solution?
    • My thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) value has always been quite high, but the one blood draw I had with a full thyroid panel showed normal values for everything else. As such, I agree with modern researchers: TSH is overrated. “How do you feel?” is too subjective for a clinical trial, but it’s proving more accurate than looking at a TSH value in isolation.
  • The same goes for chromium, vanadium, etc. And what about tellurium (52)? Is that used in the human body? Forget the less important minerals until a doctor tells you otherwise: focus on the important few.

Probiotics

  • After (or while) taking anti-bioticscertain probiotic products/strains may be a good idea.
  • If you are required (or strongly recommended) to take a course of antibiotics, the recommended technique for simultaneously taking probiotics is to take the two types of bacterial pills on opposite hours. For instance, if the antibiotic is twice a day, take two probiotics +/- four or so hours from when you take the antibiotic.
  • There are two big problems in 2017:
    • 1) There is little to no evidence that probiotics help in otherwise healthy people (but they’re a good idea if you’re required to take anti-biotics for some reason).
    • 2) Our scientific knowledge in 2010-2017 is incredibly limited, and we really are only in the first few years of a decades-long process of figuring out which bacterial strains are of the most use, and how to effectively supplement.
    • Thus: save your money, focus on the above few, and if you do take probiotics, sprinkle a little salt on your pill ;).
  • Pre-biotics (“food” for bacteria), found in many vegetables and fermented foods are likely more effective, and certainly more sustainable than more pills.
  • At altitude, I tried a few brands to help with loose bowel movements at high altitude. Different products (highly rated) made no major difference, and the cause of my loose stools was likely too many calories (through fatty nuts and dark chocolate).
  • I’ve taken several, but have never been able to feel sure that they were helping. With a great diet, the nutritional supplements above, and the speed of bacterial evolution, probiotics should rarely be necessary.

Ginko Balboa

  • This is being researched to help with high altitude symptoms, and supposedly “boosts energy,” among other claims. I tried it at high altitude and felt no different (in contrast with iron, which helped a lot). I think my fiancee tried it too, short-term, and felt nothing.

Taurine (athletic/muscle performance, energy)

  • I noticed no difference, although it seems like a safe supplement at reasonable levels.

 

Creatine (athletic performance)

  • Creatine is one of the most studied and safe supplements and is often discussed by/for athletes.
  • Personally, I noticed no difference in physical performance or elsewhere in my health. My partner isn’t noticing a difference either.
  • As such, I think it’s a waste of time for most people. Look at health as a top-down process first (see the /health page), and correct important mineral deficiencies like lithium, magnesium, and calcium.

Miscellaneous Notes

Miscellaneous notes:

  • By “vitamins and minerals,” I do include some other supplements that are available in powder and liquid forms. I also include salt. However, I do not include macronutrients like proteins or fats that we need in larger quantities. My opinions on protein supplementation have been moved to the /protein page.
  • Other relevant pages include /about, where you can read about me (and why I care), and /health, which provides a more important top-down health philosophy. Supplements are #4 on that page, and the #1 health factor may surprise you.

Sources:

This page is the combination of years of knowledge. Here’s an overview:

  • I’ve been reading about biology, both in general and from a psychological perspective, most of my life.
  • My PSM is in Molecular & Cellular Biology.
    • What’s a PSM? It’s like the unloved sibling of a M.S. and an M.B.A.
    • In my opinion: it means I’m educated enough to be critical and scientific, but that I’m not an expert. Nor do I ever want to be an expert. Experts can’t often see the whole picture because their lives are crammed full of too many details. Most doctors are too conservative (afraid of lawsuits, willing to wait 20+ years for government guidelines, etc.) to recommend useful action regarding this page. I’m not waiting.
  • I started using examine.com (second bullet below) in 2015 to help improve my health while living at altitude. I still use the site regularly, and I also subscribe to their bi-monthly digest of curated scientific studies related to nutrition and fitness.
  • Now, with the importance of the /lithium page, I’m reading primary research studies again.
  • I will continue to read new scientific findings and update this page as I learn. Feel free to /contact me with suggestions and improvements.

A few useful websites to know about:

  • www.labdoor.com/ to help figure out which brands are of the best quality.
    • Links to labdoor.com’s applicable rankings page are provided for most sections.
  • www.examine.com to help cut through BS on which supplements are even worth your time.
    • Most of the main vitamins and minerals here occur on examine.com’s for-pay products, and I’m grateful to them for helping me focus my own efforts to educate the public. Unfortunately, examine.com does not yet cover lithium, although as a member, I am urging them to begin including it. Until they review and cover lithium better than I do, I’m doing it myself on my nutritional lithium in biology page.
    • I’ll provide links to examine.com’s pages at the beginning of that section.
  • ReviewMeta.com Review Analyzer Chrome Extension.
    • Looking at supplements on Amazon? Did you know that maybe 2%, maybe 20% of those reviews might be written by machines in order to receive a higher score? Cut out those reviews and see the real score by using that Chrome extension. Please use /contact if you have suggestions for other platforms (OS’s, etc.).
  • Nutritiondata.self.com is one of the best sites for macro- and micro-nutritent information in the foods you eat.
    • It’s horribly ugly with a ton of ads, but it contains the most detailed information I know of. Many other sites barely have vitamin/mineral information, and I’ve never found another site that has individual amino or fatty acid data, which nutritiondata includes if available. Here’s spinach, for example. Only for the geeks!
  • www.amazon.com and www.iHerb.com are two decent sites to buy supplements.
    • When I was last overseas, iHerb was much more affordable for international shipping, but this may have changed depending on your country.

 


The End-Goal: No More Pills!

Let’s put this all in context before diving in: we don’t want to be “pill junkies.”

I supplement with these nutrients because I don’t believe I’m consuming everything my body needs through food. I started seriously changing my diet in 2010, so so if you’re just beginning, the nutrients on this page are even more important.

 

There are no magic pills.

Remember that health is a top-down process, as I express on the /health page, where I believe “supplements” are the last of at least five areas discussed. Food is only number four.

A pill/supplement should be a supplement to a good lifestyle, rather than a long term, cover-all-my-bases, take-it-and-forget it, shotgun-approach kind of pill. That’s the simplest reason why many Americans should not take a multivitamin. (If you feel good from your multivitamin, it’s likely the same “energy” that comes from an “energy drink” loaded with B-vitamins. Compare the ingredients and their quantities.)

Pills and supplements should also be reviewed regularly.

 

Take a no-pills day/week every so often

Myself and many others who supplement our diets with micronutrients recommend a common practice: not taking any supplements for short periods of time. Personally, I only take the pills on this page between 4-6 days per week. Lately I’ve also been taking one week per month where I don’t take any supplements. That gives me a good idea of how my health is doing the rest of the month. Ideally, a week or so without supplements shouldn’t result in any major negative effects on your health.

Remember that health is a long term road, and you’ll need to forge your own path.

 

Why mostly minerals?

Sharp observers will not that with the exception of Vitamin K, I don’t recommend any “vitamins” on this webpage.

(Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin, it’s a hormone, as discussed in that section.)

So why mostly minerals?

While levels of both vitamins and minerals have declined in our available foods, most of us still consume enough vitamins. But that isn’t so with certain minerals. Calcium and magnesium aren’t commonly added to crops, we don’t eat the organ meat of our animals these days or much seafood for the minerals in those foods. Worse, most of the country doesn’t yet know that lithium is a necessary mineral.

Farmers commonly “fertilize” (read: supplement!) their crops with “NPK,” as is commonly known. That’s Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). This is all well and good, but it’s hardly enough: these three nutrients date back to the theory of a German farmer from the 1800s, and we’ve changed little since then. Modern farmers are improving their methods, but the few farmers who do care about the decades-long health of their land pale in comparison to the large agricultural corporations that own the land. A person in such a company may care deeply for the health of the land, but unless the company is structured otherwise, the average company will proceed towards a single purpose: profits.

So farmers are supplementing their crops with a few elements (NPK), but not many others (Li, Mg, Ca, Se…).

Certain vitamins, including even the B-vitamins and vitamin C, might be useful to certain Americans. But for the most part, Americans need to focus more on correcting mineral deficiencies resulting from imbalances in our food supply. Focus on the most important nutrients first: I’ve organized this page in that rough order.

 


 

COMMENTS & FEEDBACK

I’d love your feedback: 

  • How should the sections be organized?
  • What do you agree or disagree with?
  • What else should this page include?
  • Which future sections are more important?

Please use the /contact page. Thank you!

 


Update Log:

[7 June: began major revision: Revising sections into the more readable and consistent sub-headings of “what do I need to know?” “are there any prejudices?” etc. 28 June: added latest fish oil bottle used, a few misc. minor edits/typos.]
[6 June: Added section “Introduction: “I’m not rich. Where do I start?“”, removed “3-minute solution,” moved lithium back to #1 based on budget priorities.
[15 May: Changed title.]
[28 April: minor edits, added photo. wow, a website is hard work!]
[26 April: Added “end goal” section, added “sources” section to intro.]
[20 April: recommendation against lithium aspartate]
[17 April: Organized main ToC a bit better, moved Salt to its own section higher up, moved protein to /protein, minor edits.]
[10 April: Rearranged top-3 order, added “multivitamin” section, misc. minor edits.]
[6 April: Misc. english edits and organization.]
[20 March: Added above “A word on Amazon affiliate links” section [moved to intro].]
[18 March: Major reorganization, table of contents, major edits.]
[xx Feb: Light edits for clarity; moved Lithium to top 3 for awareness. Added disclaimer page.]
[24 Dec: Created. This page originated as a personal email to family and close friends.]