So you exercise, you eat right and you are living your best life. What else could you possibly need to stay on top of it all? Well, the truth is that no matter how well balanced our diets are we always tend to have some blind spots. We see it every day in the stores, juices, cereals, and other items touting their vitamin content, but why are vitamins so important? We’ll go over that in the rest of the article, but first, let’s learn some key terms to better educate ourselves.
While you can definitely achieve your daily nutrient needs from consuming a wide array of foods, all of the vitamins and minerals we cover below are readily available in an easy to consume daily pack. Core Daily Pack (extended release) or Raw Whole Food Super Pack (whole food based organic vitamins) are both available to cover your specific dietary needs and for as little as $1 per day.
Combining a Core Daily Pack or Raw Whole Food Super Pack with our UltraGreens green food blend is a great way to cover all your nutritional bases. Let's be real, we don't always eat as many greens as we'd like to and our nutrition intake can fall behind as a result. UltraGreens is an easy way to supplement your vitamin intake with green foods.
Vitamins: Organic substances required for normal cell function, growth, and development. There are 13 essential vitamins, and many more non-essential vitamins. Essential & Non-Essential vitamins work together for a kind of entourage effect if you will.
Fat-Soluble Vitamins – Fat-soluble vitamins bind to fats in the stomach and are then stored in the body for later use. We are less likely to be deficient in these vitamins, but they are also more likely to build up to toxic levels, which can be caused by overconsumption of certain foods and/or supplements. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K, and are best taken with an oil or fat such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds to allow for maximum absorption.
Water-Soluble Vitamins – The remainder of all vitamins are water-soluble, which means that they can be absorbed directly by cells. When in excess, these vitamins are flushed out of our system with each bathroom break. Water-soluble vitamins – biotin, vitamin c, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, and the four B complex vitamins – need to be restored more frequently, but the body can also tolerate higher amounts of these vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are best taken on an empty stomach, around 30 minutes prior to a meal for optimal absorption.
Minerals – Minerals are inorganic substances and all of them hold a place on the Periodic Table of Elements (remember, that thing you hated in college chemistry so much?) They are needed for normal body function and development as well. There are two groups of minerals: macrominerals (which your body needs in large amounts) and trace minerals (only required in small amounts).
RDA – This term you’ve seen at the grocery store and may already be familiar with. Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA, represent the average daily dietary intake of each vitamin and mineral a person needs to stay healthy and avoid deficiencies. These amounts are set forth by the FDA and are all backed by scientific data and can be broken down by age and gender.
Measurements – Vitamins and minerals that are required in larger doses are measured in units of milligrams (mg). Trace minerals and some vitamins are expressed in micrograms (mcg). Every 1 mg is made up of 1,000 mcg. You may see other measurements from time to time, but these are the most common.
The A-List Vitamins
Biotin – Like the other water-soluble B-complex vitamins, biotin plays a huge role in cell growth and food metabolism (1). Our bodies convert the food we eat into energy through the process of metabolism. This means more thinking, more exercise, and doing more of what you love. Deficiency of Biotin is extremely rare, but over-eating raw egg whites has been shown to prevent biotin absorption (though this is an older study, certain foods have been shown to inhibit certain vitamin absorption) (2).
Where to find it - Cooked salmon, whole grain foods, eggs, or avocados.
Calcium – You’ve heard it before, Got Milk? An outdated slogan given what we know about the amounts of calcium in green leafy vegetables. Calcium is a macromineral that is essential for healthy development of bones and teeth. Calcium also plays a role in muscle function, blood clotting, nerve signaling, hormone secretion and even blood pressure (3). Along with Vitamin D, calcium has been shown to help against diseases such as osteoporosis (4).
RDA: 1,000 mg
Where to find it - Tofu, bok choy, spinach, or rhubarb
Choline – Choline is another water-soluble B vitamin and is a building block of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is essential for healthy nerve and brain activities that control memory and muscle movement. Choline also helps to turn the food we eat and our stored energy into fuel (5, 6). Vegetarians, vegans, pregnant women, and endurance athletes are at greater risk for choline deficiency, which is linked to fatty liver disease, atherosclerosis, neurological disorders, and impaired fetal development (7).
RDA: Men 550 mg / Women 425 mg
Where to find it - Eggs, cooked broccoli, cooked brussel sprouts, and milk chocolate
Chromium – This trace mineral is thought to enhance insulin activity and the breakdown of sugars that we eat, though it is only needed in small amounts and is not considered essential (8). While some chromium supplements advertise muscle building and weight loss benefits, there is no solid research evidence that supports these types of claims (9). Actually, overconsumption of chromium supplements could be cause for kidney damage (10). Keep that in mind next time you are thinking about trying this as a shortcut to rock hard abs. You may have chrome wheels, but do you have chromium-dense meals?
RDA: Men 35 mcg / Women 25 mcg
Where to find it - Broccoli, grape juice, and whole grain foods
Copper – While it’s the material our least valuable coin is made up of, it’s on the frontline in the creation of red blood cells. Copper is also important for proper energy metabolism, immunity, and nervous system function (11). While copper deficiencies don’t happen often, they may cause anemia, a low white blood cell count, and even bone deterioration (12). While copper toxicity from dietary intake is rare, copper poisoning has occurred due to elevated levels in water supplies or leeching from copper containers and pipes (13).
RDA – 900 mcg
Where to find it - Cooked Liver, nuts, raw mushrooms, and semi-sweet chocolate
Fluoride – A non-essential trace mineral that we work so hard to avoid in toothpaste. Fluoride helps to keep your teeth cavity-free and your bones less breakable (14). Most tap water in the U.S. is already fluorinated, so it’s not likely you will need to supplement this at all.
RDA – Men 4 mg / Women 3 mg
Where to find it – Grape juice and cooked chicken
Folic Acid (AKA Folate) – Folic acid is a such a critical part of our diet that the U.S. Government required fortification of most commercial flours with this water-soluble vitamin. Why is Folic Acid so important? It’s vital for pregnant women to ensure the baby’s proper development, helping prevent birth defects in the brain and spine (15, 16). No baby? No problem. Folic acid also helps in the formation of almost all cells in the body and may also reduce the risk of heart disease and colon cancer (17).
RDA – 400 mcg
Where to find it – Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, spinach, and orange juice
Iodine – This trace mineral is a critical component of thyroid hormones which maintain our basal metabolic rate (BMR). Iodine also helps regulate body temperature, nerve and muscle function, and plays a role in the body’s growth and development (18). Iodine deficiency can lead to thyroid dysfunction, developmental abnormalities, and even goiters (swelling of the thyroid gland) (19). Iodine is found in almost all table salts (it reads ‘Iodized’ on the container). Sea salt and other types of salt may not contain Iodine, so be sure to check the label.
RDA – 150 mcg
Where to find it – Baked potatoes, seaweed, cod, and tuna
Iron – Pumping iron into your life serves to help hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells, and myoglobin (hemoglobin’s muscular counterpart) bring oxygen to all the cells that need it. Iron is also an important part of the production of amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and hormones (20, 21). This mineral is easily absorbed from red meats and poultry, so vegans and vegetarians may want to consider iron supplements in addition to leafy green vegetables (22).
RDA – Men 8 mg / Women 18 mg
Where to find it – Cooked lentils, tofu, potatoes, and cashews
Magnesium – Magnesium is a macromineral that partners with calcium to assist with proper muscle contraction, blood clotting, cell signaling, energy metabolism, blood pressure regulation and building healthy bones and teeth (23). Now that’s an impressive list! Magnesium deficiency is super rare and so are toxicities, unless you are taking regular magnesium supplements. If that’s what you are into, watch out for diarrhea, lethargy, heart rate disturbances, and even muscle weakness (24).
RDA – Men 400 mg / Women 310 mg
Where to find it – Oat bran, almonds, brown rice, cooked spinach, and bananas
Manganese – Though manganese is an essential trace mineral and antioxidant, it is also potentially toxic in excess amounts (25). It plays an important role in energy, bone development, and wound healing, while over-consumption (usually a result of water contamination) may cause a dip in intellectual function (26, 27). Ouch!
RDA – Men 2.3 mg / Women 1/.8 mg
Where to find it – Pecans, brown rice, oatmeal, and green tea
Molybdenum – Mol-eeb-den-um, is a necessary factor of many enzymes which speed up the body’s biochemical reactions that break down dietary and stored nutrients into energy (28). Molybdenum deficiency has never been documented in healthy people, and toxicity is also similarly rare.
RDA – 45 mcg
Where to find it – Split peas, black beans, and nuts
Niacin (AKA Vitamin B3) – Looking for beautiful hair, skin & nails (and red blood cells)? Niacin to the rescue. Similar to other water-soluble B vitamins, niacin is essential for converting food into energy. It’s also important for the health of your skin, hair, eyes, liver, and nervous system, and is believed to lower risks of high cholesterol and heart disease (29, 30, 31). High doses of niacin can be toxic, and may cause a rosy tingling (also known as the niacin flush) – if doses exceed 50 mg per day (32).
RDA – Men 16 mg / Women 14 mg
Where to find it – Peanuts, fortified cereals, salmon, and coffee
Pantothenic Acid (AKA Vitamin B5) – This vitamin plays an important role in food metabolism and helps synthesize neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, red blood cells, and more. Toxicity is virtually nonexistent, and while B5 deficiency is fairly rare, neurologic symptoms such as burning feet may appear (33).
RDA – 5 mg
Where to find it – Avocados, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and whole grains
Phosphorus – Bone and teeth health benefits from phosphorus, a macromineral that primarily builds and protects your teeth and your skeleton. A component of DNA and RNA, helping convert food into energy, and aids in shuttling nutrients to the organs that need them (34). While rare, cases of phosphorus deficiency can lead to anemia, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, and numbness and tingling in the legs (35).
RDA – 700 mg
Where to find it – Beer, yogurt, salmon, and eggs
Potassium – A macromineral and electrolyte that is essential for a steady heartbeat, the transmission of nervous system signals, and muscle function (36). Potassium is also thought to lower blood pressure and benefits bones, too (37). Short-term potassium deficiencies can occur after prolonged vomiting or diarrhea and may cause fatigue, muscle weakness, cramps, bloating, abdominal pain and constipation (38). Always a good idea to eat a few bananas while you are feeling under the weather, or after a night of overindulgence.
RDA – 4,700 mg
Where to find it – Bananas, baked potatoes, artichokes, raisins, and plums
Riboflavin (AKA Vitamin B2) – This water-soluble B vitamin helps convert food to fuel, encourages iron absorption in the intestines, and also enhances the health of hair, skin, muscles, eyes and the brain (39). While high intake of this vitamin (and many of the b vitamins) may turn your urine a bright yellow color, this is simply your body getting rid of the excess and is a harmless side effect.
RDA – Men 1.3 mg / Women 1.1 mg
Where to find it – Almonds, enriched grains, and cereals
Selenium – An antioxidant that also helps aid in the smooth operation of thyroid hormone regulation (40). Antioxidants help your body eliminate free radical cells out of the body in order to help prevent cell damage.
RDA – 55 mcg
Where to find it – Brazil nuts, enriched noodles, and salmon
Sodium Chloride (AKA Salt) – You may remember this old friend as NaCl from chemistry class years ago. The rest of us just call it table salt. Sodium chloride is found in high amounts in most meals, snacks and even beverages. It is essential for fluid balance, nerve signal transmission, muscle contractions, digestion, and blood pressure, but it is possible to have too much (41). Excess sodium intake can raise blood pressure above normal limits, increasing the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life (42). The average daily diet already includes salt in excess, so we recommend considering low-salt alternatives like olive oil (instead of butter), unsalted nuts instead of salted ones, and fresh fruit. A little-known trick is also to add salt at the end of cooking a meal, you’ll find you need to use much less to get that perfect balance.
RDA – 500 mg sodium / 750 mg chloride
Where to find it – Pickles, noodle soups, and white bread
Thiamin (AKA Vitamin B1) - Another water-soluble B vitamin, thiamin helps with food metabolism and boosts the health of hair, skin, muscles, and the brain (43, 44). Toxicity has never been observed, and thiamin deficiency is incredibly rare in the U.S. Symptoms of deficiency can affect the cardiovascular, nervous, muscular, and gastrointestinal systems in a variety of ways (45).
RDA – Men 1.2 mg / Women 1.1 mg
Where to find it – Lentils, cantaloupe, long grain white rice, and pecans
Vitamin A (AKA Retinol) – While known for being good for vision and skin, vitamin A has many other important tasks: It encourages red and white blood cell production and activity, keeps the immune system fit and blood vessels healthy, helps rebuild tone, regulates cell growth and division, and may reduce the risk for some cancers (46, 47). Retinoids, variations of vitamin A, are also used in medications to treat various skin diseases and acne (48). Vegetables such as carrots contain high amounts of beta-carotene which is readily converted to vitamin A once digested (49, 50).
RDA – Men 900 mcg / Women 700 mcg
Where to find it – Carrots, kale, pumpkin, cantaloupe, mango, and butternut squash
Vitamin B6 (AKA Pyridoxine) – Vitamin B6 helps with the production of serotonin, a hormone that plays a hand in sleep, appetite, and mood functions (51). It also assists in the manufacturing of red blood cells and steroid hormones, influences cognitive and immune function, and is linked to reducing the risk of heart disease. (52, 53)
RDA – 1.3 mg
Where to find it – Bananas, potatoes with skin, salmon, and cooked spinach
Vitamin B12 – Plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids, cell creation, and the protection of nerve cells, and also may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s (54, 55). Vitamin B12 deficiencies are common in our senior years and may cause memory loss, dementia, and anemia (56).
RDA – 2.4 mcg
Where to find it – Salmon, fortified cereals, and poached eggs
Vitamin C (AKA Ascorbic acid) – You’ve seen this one all over the grocery store, most notably on cartons of OJ, and for good reason. Vitamin C is thought to lower the risk for some cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and breast (57). It also helps make collagen, an important element of skin health and wound repair. It also has impressive antioxidant properties and immune-boosting effects (58).
RDA – Men 90 mg / Women 75 mg
Where to get it – Citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, red peppers and broccoli
Vitamin D – This essential fat-soluble vitamin, vital for normal calcium metabolism, immunity, nervous system function, and bone density loves the sun (59, 60). Vitamin D is activated by a burst of UV rays, and only about 10-15 minutes worth of sun exposure should do. Alternatively, supplements, cereals, and juices that are fortified with an active form of Vitamin D are equally effective (61).
RDA – 15 mcg
Where to get it – Fortified cereals, salmon, egg yolks, and sunlight
Vitamin E – A family of eight antioxidants, vitamin E protects essential lipids from damage, battles free radicals, and maintains the integrity of cell membranes (62). Signs of vitamin E deficiency may include impaired balance and coordination, muscle weakness, and pain and numbness in the limbs (63). Think you are in the clear? Well, it turns out that approximately 90% of Americans do not meet the recommendation for this vitamin’s daily intake.
RDA – 15 mg
Where to get it – Olive oil, almonds, avocados, and hazelnuts
Vitamin K – Not to be confused with Potassium (noted as K on the period table of elements), this essential fat-soluble vitamin is a must for bone development and wound healing (64). While blood clots may sound bad, consider the importance of scabs, which are patches of clotted blood that protect cuts and scrapes (65).
RDA – Men 120 mcg / Women 90 mcg
Where to get it – Kale, cooked broccoli, parsley, and swiss chard
Zinc – A trace element that is a building block for enzymes, proteins, and cells. It is also responsible for freeing vitamin A up from the liver through enzymatic activity (66). Zinc also plays a role in boosting the immune system, mediating senses such as taste and smell, and also wound healing (67).
RDA – Men 11 mg / Women 8 mg
Where to find it – Cashews, turkey, and oysters