By Dr. Josh Axe
While ideally vitamin supplements wouldn’t be necessary for adults to get all the nutrients they require, today’s high-speed Western lifestyles often make it difficult to eat a truly nutrient-dense diet.
Many people assume vitamin or mineral shortfalls are mostly a third-world problem in the 21st century, or that they more commonly affect women. However, research tells us that even in developed nations, the best vitamins for men (such as vitamin D, B12 and magnesium) often aren’t consumed enough.
A diet that’s low in vitamin-rich foods like fruits and veggies is partly to blame; however, other factors like poor soil quality and lifestyle habits can also contribute to low nutrient levels among men.
Consuming more nutrients can help improve many aspects of a man’s overall health, including by supporting muscle strength and gains, a healthy metabolism, healthy energy levels, restful sleep, physical performance, and more.
Best Vitamins for Men
There are 13 essential vitamins all men need — including vitamins C, A, D, E, K and the B vitamins (such as thiamine and vitamin B12) — plus a number of important trace minerals, electrolytes, and essential fatty acids.
Men can experience low vitamin or mineral levels without showing any noticeable signs or symptoms, so one shouldn’t assume that because he feels mostly “normal” that his diet is definitely sufficient in the best vitamins for men.
The following are considered to be some of the most important and best vitamins for men:
(Note: You should always consult your healthcare professional before starting any dietary or lifestyle regimen, including dietary supplements.)
1. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in both adult men and women. It’s estimated that a whopping 45 percent to 75 percent of all adults in the U.S. (or possibly even more depending on ethnicity) experience at least some degree of vitamin D deficiency. It’s especially common among those who live in cold climates and spend most of their time indoors.
In general, men need vitamin D to produce enough testosterone, maintain strong bones, protect brain health, support positive moods, and for immune and cardiovascular support
Vitamin D can be obtained from eating certain foods like eggs, some dairy products and even certain mushrooms, but we get the majority of our vitamin D from directly being exposed to the sun, without wearing much or any sunscreen. By spending 15-20 minutes outside most days of the week without sunscreen on, you help vitamin D become synthesized when it comes into contact with your skin.
During the colder months of the year, or if you just aren’t able to regularly get outdoors, consider taking a vitamin D supplement to help cover your bases. Adult men need between 600 IU and 1,000 IU per day, although higher amounts may be beneficial for some.
2. Vitamin B12
Many men and women tend to be low in vitamin B12, although for somewhat different reasons. Studies show that most men usually consume the daily B12 they need (from eating things like beef, poultry and eggs), but they can have trouble with proper absorption of vitamin B12 due to lifestyle choices.
This can be a problem considering vitamin B12 is needed for healthy energy levels, helping to lower fatigue and for general cognitive support
B12 can be obtained from eating most animal proteins, especially lamb, beef and salmon. If you avoid eating most or all animal products, it’s also a good idea to get your levels tested and consider taking an additional B12 supplement daily (or a men’s multivitamin containing B12) to cover your needs. The typical general supplemental dose of vitamin B12 is about 2.5 mcg per day.
Related: Best Multivitamin for Men
3. Antioxidant Vitamins (Vitamins A, C and E)
Eating a diet rich in high-antioxidant foods like fruits and vegetables (particularly dark leafy greens like spinach, kale or collard greens) is one of the best ways to get beneficial antioxidants like vitamin C and A.
Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A cannot be made by the body, so they must come from our diets. Their biggest benefit is their antioxidant power that can help fight free radicals or oxidative stress.
As men get older, consuming antioxidant vitamins helps promote antioxidant activity, support healthy cells, promote a healthy immune response, support cognitive health/healthy neuron function, and skin/eye/hair health.
Making sure to “eat the rainbow” (different colorful fruits and veggies) can go a long way in upping your antioxidant and vitamin intake, while supplements such as vitamin C and vitamin E can also help.
For generally healthy men, the recommended daily amount for vitamin C is about 90 milligrams a day (the upper limit is about 2,000 mg a day), while the RDA for vitamin E 22.5 IU per day, and the RDA for vitamin A is 900 mcgs/day.
4. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is important for building and maintaining strong bones, facilitating normal blood clotting and promoting cardiovascular health.
Why might a man be low in this vitamin? A vitamin K shortfall is generally thought to be more common in men who don’t regularly consume veggies or dairy products, or any dietary or lifestyle practices that may interfere with absorption.
Vitamin K1 is found in many green vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in things like dairy products. The best way to prevent vitamin K deficiency is to eat plenty of different veggies, including green leafy vegetables, broccoli, collards and cabbage, plus some wild-caught fish and cage-free eggs, too.
A good quality multivitamin will also likely contain vitamin K, while vitamin K2 supplements are also available to help fill in gaps in a man’s diet. The recommended intake of vitamin K is 120 mcg for adult men.
Magnesium is an essential electrolyte mineral involved in over 300 different chemical processes. It plays a part in regulating calcium, potassium and sodium levels, thereby supporting healthy blood pressure, muscular health, digestive processes, bone health, a positive outlook and calmness, and many other processes.
Levels of magnesium in the modern food supply are believed to have decreased over time due to soil depletion, which is one reason people might be getting less. When a man is under a lot of stress or works out often, he’s also more likely to want to look into boosting their magnesium intake.
Make sure to get enough by consuming magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy green veggies, cruciferous veggies, sea vegetables/algae, beans, nuts and seeds.
It’s also a good idea for some men to supplement with extra magnesium, since it’s thought that some older men may need more. Most healthy adult men should generally consume about 400 to 420 milligrams of magnesium daily.
6. Omega-3 Fish Oils
There are many benefits associated with eating more wild-caught fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, tuna and halibut. Omega-3 fish oil supplements can also be useful for tipping the scale in favor of a healthier ratio of fatty acids within your diet.
Most people eating a “Western diet” consume plenty of omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in many packaged foods and vegetables oils, but not nearly enough omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in certain fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.
These two fatty acids need to balance each other out in order to promote a healthy inflammation response and a healthy immune system. Eating wild-caught fish several times per week, or taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement equal to about 1,000 milligrams daily, is the best way to help ensure your intake is adequate.
Many adults in the U.S. and other developed nations don’t get enough potassium. This is concerning, considering that potassium is important when it comes to maintaining normal cardiovascular function, blood pressure, bone health and digestion.
Potassium deficiency is most common only for men under certain circumstances, but men who exercise for more than one to two hours a day may benefit from upping their potassium intake.
You can help meet your potassium needs by eating foods like beans, avocado, sweet potato, bananas, salmon and grass-fed beef.
If you need to up your potassium intake, then you may consider supplementing with potassium along with adding more dietary sources to your routine. Adult men should aim to consume upwards of about 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.
There are many factors that can affect someone’s personal habits and therefore their food choices and intake of things like vitamins, trace minerals and antioxidants.
How do you know if your diet alone is enough to provide you with all the nutrients you need?
Research shows men have a higher probability of being deficient in certain vitamins if they eat a mostly processed diet (one with lots of packaged foods or takeout, as opposed to home-cooked meals), experience low economic status, or if they’re usually surrounded by other people eating poor diets, especially their family members and close friends.
Because certain groups of men are more prone to missing key vitamins, this makes them good candidates for supplementing with extra vitamins and minerals in order to meet all of their needs. Consider supplementation if any of these apply to you:
- You rarely eat fresh vegetables and fruits.
- Your consumption of seafood, especially oily fish, is limited.
- You follow a vegan/vegetarian diet that doesn’t include grass-fed meat, eggs, dairy and poultry.
- You’re elderly (nutritional status in older men can be impacted by their age and more).
- You have a family history of deficiencies.
- You have a food allergy that eliminates certain food groups, for example lactose intolerance.
- You’re underweight and consuming too little calories in general (“underweight” is generally considered below a BMI of 18.5).
- You’re considered to be of low socioeconomic status and are experiencing poverty (which can make it harder to buy quality, fresh foods).
What type of supplements are best for men? When searching for a multivitamin, consider choosing a fermented option. Fermentation is a form of pre-digestion that generally makes nutrients easier to absorb.
A multivitamin featuring adaptogens and herbs — such as ashwagandha, saw palmetto, ginger, ginseng and others — can also help support absorption and a healthy response to stress.
- The best vitamins for men include vitamins D, B12, A, C, E and vitamin K. Trace minerals and essential fatty acids like magnesium, omega-3 fish oil and potassium are also integral to a man’s overall health.
- Risk factors for running low in certain key vitamins and nutrients include: eating a poor diet low in fresh veggies and fruit; being elderly; family history of deficiencies; avoiding most or all animal products; and being underweight and consuming too little calories in general.
- When searching for a multivitamin, consider choosing a fermented option which can help support absorption. While supplements shouldn’t replace a healthy diet, they can help to fill in gaps in a man’s diet.
Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food and nutrition. He operates leading natural health website DrAxe.com and is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health supplement company. He’s also author of the books Eat Dirt, Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine, Keto Diet and Collagen Diet.