Vitamins and Minerals Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) - Food vs Supplements
Vitamin and mineral supplements are usually in pill or tablet form - good source of practically all vitamins and minerals. It is important to read labels, since the ingredients vary greatly from company to company. After all, requirements do vary from person to person. One should strive to get daily amounts of vitamins and minerals from food.
Vitamin and mineral recommended daily doses vary depending on the gender, age, weight, physical activity etc
It is important to eat divers foods both cooked (meat, eggs, fish, veggies etc) and raw (fruits, salads etc). Even than, depending on nutritional habits and life style, some deficiencies can occur.
If you drink multivitamin and/or multimineral supplements, it is recommended to change company from time to time. Also, bear in mind that excess water soluble vitamins can be removed from the body by urin, fats soluble can't. So too much vitamins and minerals is not good either. To find out how much vitamins and minerals you need on a daily basis, please check our list of the most important vitamins and minerals.
Abundance of vitamins and minerals in food vary, but more fresh food is, more vitamins it has. Amount of minerals in food also depends on presence of these minerals in soil (veggies, fruits) or animal food (meat, milk, eggs, fish, cheese etc).
Remember - real food is real food ...
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients very important to healthy life style. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) are just that - recommended daily vitamin and mineral doses that vary from person to person depending on the age, physical activity, goals etc.
List of most important vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A has 6 vitamers (vitamer - different chemical substances, each of which shows vitamin activity) and is soluble in fats. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) 900 µg, upper intake level (UL) 3000 µg - it must not be taken in larger doses for longer period of time.
In food, vitamin A can be generally found in two forms:
- retinol - fat soluble compound absorbed when eating animal food sources,
- carotenes (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, gama-carotene and xanthophyll beta-cryptoxanthin) - these compounds function as vitamin A because human body has the enzymes needed to convert carotene compounds to retinol.
Vitamin A can be found in egg yolks, liver, fatty fish, carrots, spinach etc. If you eat food consisting of various animal sources combined with fresh fruits and veggies, you should not have problems with vitamin A intake.
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B represent a group of 8, water soluble vitamins:
B complex vitamins play very important role in cell metabolism, they increase metabolism in general, but also increase appetite, they maintain healthy skin, hair and nails, they improve immune and nervous system and muscle tone etc.
Obviously, B complex vitamins are very important for every athlete and every person wanting to stay fit and healthy.
B vitamins can be found in animal products such as meat, liver, fish and similar. Plant based whole unprocessed foods tend to have more B vitamins that their processed counter parts - brown rice vs white rice and similar.
NOTE: B12 vitamin is not available from plant products and B12 deficiency should be of great concern for vegans. Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume milk, eggs and their products, so they should have no problems with B12 vitamin. There are some plant based foods that claim to have B12 vitamin, but problem is that such B12 vitamin is measured by bacterial respond to the food and not by measuring B12 vitamin directly in food. Unfortunately, such B12 is of no use to humans.
Long story short - vegans should be taking regularly B complex or B12 supplements to avoid deficiencies.
Vitamin C also known as Ascorbic Acid, is soluble in water vitamin, with recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of 90 mg and upper intake level (UL) 2g.
Vitamin C takes part in many processes in the body. It boosts immune system, helps in healing wounds and other macro and micro damages, acts as strong antioxidant etc.
Vitamin C can be found in fresh fruits and vegetables, so it is very important to consume them, even on calorie restricted diets.
NOTE: C vitamin upper intake level is said to be around 2g (2000 mg). Well, there are evidences that much higher doses (mega doses) of vitamin C of around 20g per day have beneficial role in human health and well being. Personally, I feel fine with 1-2g of C vitamin on days with heavy workouts and on non training days, I don't take C vitamin supplements - I prefer some salads like orange-kiwi salad, or other fresh fruits, salad or juices.
Vitamin D is group of vitamins soluble in fats. Recommended dietary allowances (RDA) is 5 - 10 µg, upper intake level (UL) 50 µg.
Vitamin D is unique for humans because it functions like prohormone and can be synthesize by humans when exposed to the sun.
Vitamin D promote remodeling and growth of bone tissue, regulate concentration of calcium and phosphate, prevent rickets and osteoporosis and takes part in regulating many metabolic processes.
Vitamin D can be found in whole eggs, beef liver, fish liver oils and in fatty fish. Vegans, again, should be taking vitamin D supplements, with note that only UV-irradiated mushrooms and yeast are the only plant based vitamin D sources (D2 vitamin). As said before, sun can promote production of D vitamins in human body, but don't go to the beach and fry all day long because of vitamin D ...
Vitamin E are compounds soluble in fats, with recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 15 µg, upper intake level (UL) 1000 µg.
Vitamin E can be found in many forms that include various tocopherols and tocotrienols.
As on of the strongest antioxidants, vitamin E protects human body from free radicals that can do damage on cellular level. Vitamin E also regulate some enzyme reactions and takes part in many other processes.
Best sources of vitamin E are nuts (almonds, hazelnuts etc), broccoli, tomato products, some fish liver oils, some fatty fish, spinach, mangoes, pumpkins etc
Vitamin K is group of soluble in fats compounds, with recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 120 µg.
Vitamin K takes part in many body processes including blood coagulation and keeping bones and other tissues healthy.
Vitamin K can be found in fruits and vegetables like spinach, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, kiwis, grapes etc. Also, one of the most significant sources of K vitamin for humans are colonic bacteria - so, eat your veggies and let tummy do the rest :o)
Potassium is chemical element with the chemical symbol K (Kalium), with recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 4700 mg. It is one of the most important minerals in human body.
Although potassium is required in larger doses by human body, when compared with other vitamins and minerals, it rarely lacks. Potassium can be found in plants and nutrition which is rich in fruits and vegetables provide more than enough potassium. Also good sources of potassium are nuts, fish, meat, milk etc.
Chlorine is chemical element with the chemical symbol Cl. Recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of chlorine is 2300 mg. It is present in every food that we eat and of course - kitchen salt (NaCl).
Sodium is chemical element with the chemical symbol Na. Recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of sodium is 1500 mg.
Since it is present in kitchen salt (NaCl), most of people have problems with consuming too much of sodium. It is very important mineral that plays vital role as electrolyte.
As part of 'Potassium-Sodium Pump' can be used to manipulate water content and distribution in human body, few hours before bodybuilding competitions.
Calcium is chemical element with the chemical symbol Ca and recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of 1000 mg. RDA for every vitamin and mineral vary depending on the age, weight, gender and many other aspects of human life.
Calcium is very important mineral for humans - around 99% of calcium in the body is stored in the bones and teeth. Calcium is also very important electrolyte and takes part in processes with sodium, potassium, magnesium ...
Calcium is present in dairy product like milk, cheese, yoghurt and can be found, in smaller quantities, in vegetables, fruits, cereals ...
Phosphorus is chemical element with the chemical symbol P. Recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for phosphorus is around 700 mg.
Phosphorus takes part in many important processes in the body - it is part of DNA and RNA and what is more important for physically active people to know, phosphorus is used (in the form of phosphate) to transport energy in the cells in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Less ATP, less working capability of the muscle fibers.
Calcium phosphate is also important part of bone structure.
Phosphorus can be found in abundance in various foods - vegetables, meat, fish, cereals, fruits etc, so phosphate deficiency is unlikely to occur ...
Magnesium is chemical element with the chemical symbol Mg and recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 420 mg.
Magnesium plays role in many important processes in the body - with phosphorus it takes part in ATP, RNA and DNA processes, many enzymes require magnesium to function properly etc.
Also, it is part of human sweat, so it is easily lost.
Magnesium is needed for plants to create chlorophyll - great source of magnesium are green leafy plants like spinach, broccoli and similar. But, unlike phosphorus, magnesium is not so present in everyday food, so magnesium deficiency can easily to occur, especially during periods of intense physical activity when additional magnesium is lost due to sweating.
Personally, divers food every day and some magnesium or multimineral supplement on training days are more than enough for most of the people.
Zinc is chemical element with the chemical symbol Zn. Recommended dietary allowances (RDA) is around 11 mg, but this can vary significantly.
Zinc is also one of the most important minerals in human body. It is part of numerous enzymes and takes part in many metabolic processes in human body.
Zinc can be found in red meats and liver and is smaller quantities in plant food (where amounts differ depending on the abundance of zinc in soil).
Zinc is often taken as supplement, but be careful because zinc oxide and zinc carbonate are nearly insoluble and poorly absorbed in the body. Supplements containing zinc acetate and sulfate salts are much better in providing body with needed zinc mineral, but they are also often more expensive. Personally, it is better to buy more expensive supplement and have minerals (zinc in this case) in form that body can use it than buy some cheap supplements with minerals in unusable form.
Iron is chemical element with the chemical symbol Fe and recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of 18 mg.
Iron is part of hemoglobin which is responsible for oxygen delivery to the body and removal of carbon dioxide from the body. Iron also takes part of many other processes in the body - it is one of the essential minerals to humans. Iron is also poisonous to the humans in larger quantities, so be careful with iron supplements.
Iron can be found in liver, read meat, egg yolks, poultry and some fish. Some plants have plenty of iron (like spinach) but usability of that iron is not as good as usability of animal based iron.
Other minerals important to humans:
- Manganese, recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 2.3 mg
- Copper, recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 900 µg
- Iodine, recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 150 µg
- Selenium, recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 55 µg
- Molybdenum, recommended dietary allowances (RDA) 45 µg
It is highly recommendable, but also hard to achieve - especially on a calorie restricted diets, to consume daily dose of vitamins and minerals through 'real' food. To compensate lack of vitamins and minerals in daily nutrition, one must often take them in the form of supplements. There are plenty of vitamin and mineral supplements on the market, so please read labels. Also, it is recommendable not to stick to only one brand - by varying brands and multivitamin and multimineral supplements, we are avoiding problems due to possible allergies and/or too much or too little of (some) vitamins and minerals.