When we talk about the essential vitamins for men’s health, some of them will be vitamins that are valuable for both men and women, and from children to adults. That’s because some needs span across the board for humans, and unfortunately some deficiencies do too, even in the bounty of first world nations. Beyond that, however, there are some specific vitamins and minerals that are particularly valuable to a man’s overall health, including muscle strength, sexual performance, and prostate health. Just as women have specific concerns due to their reproductive organs and body composition, men too have specific needs and risk factors to address. In this article, we’re covering the best vitamins for men and pointing out some suggested multivitamins to choose from if you fear you’re not getting enough of certain nutrients from your daily diet.
Many men in the Western world have at least one vitamin or nutrient deficiency, mostly due to a poor diet. A report from 2009 pointed out that 77% of men do not get enough magnesium, and many are deficient in vitamin D and vitamin B12 as well.
Ideally our food provides us with the nutrients we need, but even in developed nations, the lack of diversity in food choices or the consumption of processed foods over whole foods can leave men without some of their most essential vitamins. To bridge the gap, here are some of the vitamins and nutrients men should be on the lookout for, and why they’re so vital for men’s health.
Vitamin B12 is needed for nerve cell function and DNA synthesis. B12 is found in lamb, salmon, beef, poultry, eggs, and in fortified cereals, but the increasing cases of B12 deficiencies are most likely not from a lack of these foods but from certain drugs often taken for blood pressure regulation, acid-blocking purposes (like Prilosec), or diabetes management (like Metformin). These cause disruption in absorption of B12, as vitamin B12 is more often than not bound to proteins and requires stomach acid and digestive enzymes to break it down. If you take any of these medications, you may want to consult with your doctor about fortifying with a B12 supplement.
A B12 deficiency leads to fatigue and problems with central nervous system functioning. A Harvard Medical School report states that 3-4% of all adults have severely low levels of B12, and 20% are on the borderline of a deficiency. For increased energy and better health, B12 is one of the best vitamins for men.
A vitamin D deficiency is quite common in both men and women, with an estimated 45-75% of all adults in the United States having some degree of vitamin D deficiency, especially those living in colder, darker regions. That is because a lot of our vitamin D comes from direct exposure to the sun—between long winters, office jobs, night jobs, and skin cancer risks from sun exposure, many people are lacking in this vitamin.
Vitamin D insufficiency is especially problematic for men because vitamin D3 is needed in testosterone production, as well as bone health, brain health, and mood disorder prevention (this is why a lack of sunlight in the dark winters of cities like Portland and Chicago often leads to Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Vitamin D3 also helps control blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation. A vitamin D deficiency has been found to increase the likelihood of heart attack or stroke by 80%. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men across all races in the United States.
Vitamin D can be gained from regular sun exposure (without sunscreen), foods like eggs, some dairy products, and certain mushrooms, or via a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting, bone strength, and heart disease prevention. Men may find themselves low in vitamin K if they don’t eat enough vegetables or dairy products, or if they’re on certain medications or antibiotics for an extended period of time. This deficiency is also a danger for men with intestinal conditions like inflammatory bowel disease that disrupts the absorption of nutrients in the gut.
Vitamin K2 can be found in dairy products, while vitamin K1 can be obtained from green vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, and leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, and kale. Cage-free eggs and wild-caught fish can also bring in vitamin K. While diets can be modified, should your lack of vitamin K be the result of a condition or medication, supplementation may be a good idea.
The essential electrolyte magnesium plays a role in over 300 chemical processes in the body, from regulating potassium, sodium, and calcium levels, to preventing dangerous conditions like high blood pressure, muscle spasms, and deadly heart disease. Unfortunately, due to soil depletion, the magnesium content in our food supply is starting to go down, leading to lower levels of magnesium no matter what you eat. On top of that, stress levels and digestive disorders can lead to even lower levels of magnesium, as can something that should be healthy: frequent or strenuous workouts.
The signs of a magnesium deficiency include muscle twitches, anxiety, difficulty urinating, and difficulty falling and staying asleep. Magnesium-rich foods include leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower), sea vegetables (seaweed, algae), nuts, seeds, and beans. Older people are more prone to a magnesium deficiency because of reduced intestinal absorption due to age, reduced bone stores of magnesium, and excessive magnesium loss through urination.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from eating certain oily fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines, as well as eggs, seeds, and nuts. Omega-3s help promote healthy skin, lower triglycerides, and raise good HDL cholesterol. Short of eating a few helpings of fish per week, fish oil supplements can help not only increase your omega-3s, but also provide you with a proper balanced ratio of all three essential fatty acids: omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9. Western diets usually have too much omega-6 content from processed foods and vegetable oils, and not enough omega-3 fatty acids.
Both men and women should strive for a minimum 2:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s (4:1 is preferable). However, since many of us already consume more than 10 times the amount of omega-6s we need, we have to reduce the one while upping the other. A balance is needed to keep inflammation levels in check and to protect the brain, heart, and immune system. Alongside cutting down on omega-6 foods like mayonnaise, corn oil, and sunflower oil, and eating between two and three portions of fish per week, an omega-3 supplement could go a long way to balancing you out.
Since heart disease and cardiovascular problems are so prevalent for men, low levels of potassium can be particularly dangerous. Potassium is linked to bone health, metabolism function, and energy levels, as well as heart health and the risk factors for stroke. Potassium can be found in foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, beans, salmon, and grass-fed beef.
Likewise iron deficiency is one of the most common dietary deficiencies suffered worldwide, and while it’s often associated with women due to their menstrual cycles, men can be iron deficient too, leading to anemia symptoms like fatigue, breathlessness, and brittle hair and nails.
Upping vitamin C intake can help with iron absorption, so much so that iron and vitamin C are referred to as the Bonnie and Clyde of iron deficiency anemia, a duo that lets you know this deficiency is as dangerous for men as it is for women. Iron can be found largely in animal products, however there are plants that can provide non-heme iron like soybeans and black-eyed peas, which are all the more valuable for vegetarians and vegans.
Along with the vitamin C mentioned above, which is a powerful antioxidant defender for our immune systems, vitamin A and vitamin E are important too. Poor skin health and decreased vision (like night blindness or light sensitivity) could be symptoms of low vitamin A or E levels. Frequent illness, nosebleeds, and swollen gums are signs of vitamin C deficiency.
Vitamin E is particularly important for eye health and for lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s as men age. To gain these vitamins via diet, men should “eat a rainbow” of colorful fruits and vegetables for vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as nuts and seeds like almonds and sunflower seeds for vitamin E.
Here is a selection of seven men’s multivitamins you can review if you’re looking to supplement certain nutrients.
Pairing a high-quality daily multivitamin for men with an omega-3 or amino acid supplement (especially for those who don’t eat meat) will go a long way towards protecting your health and vitality. At the end of the day, you and your doctor will decide on the best multivitamin or dietary strategy for you, one that will supply you with all the essential nutrients you need to stay strong.