On Vitamins and Minerals

Pop music is aspirin and the blues are vitamins.
– Peter Tork

What could be more interesting than learning about vitamins and minerals. Chris Masterjohn is an expert resource to help understand  the role they play in your health. He offers a tool to identify and correct nutritional imbalances, as well as other informational resources through his website and blog. One of these resources is an email series designed as a 101 on vitamins and minerals. Its excellent and I copy his email summaries below.

I eat a whole foods diet for the most part, avoiding refined carbs and foods with sugar. Takeaways for me:

  • Keep with the eggs.
  • Keep with the leafy salads.
  • Find ways to up liver content.
  • Look into nutritional yeast, whatever that is.

Vitamin A

  • Vitamin A makes our eyes moist, our skin smooth and our immune system strong. It promotes healthy vision and healthy sleep.
  • Animal sources (retinol) of vitamin A are better than plant sources (carotenoids) because plant sources need to be converted, and 50% of people have a genetic profile that worsens conversion by 50-75%.
  • Liver, eggs, milk and colorful vegetables are the best ways to get vitamin A.
  • Supplement to no more than 3,000 IU per day or 10,000 IU twice a week, to avoid vitamin A toxicity.

Vitamin B1 (thiamin)

  • Thiamin is the B vitamin that specializes in burning carbs.
  • Get thiamin from nutritional yeast, legumes, or whole grains if you tolerate these well.
  • Get it from huge volumes of the listed vegetables and spices, if not.
  • When all else fails, a carefully designed low-carbohydrate diet or thiamin supplements may help.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

  • Riboflavin is the B vitamin that specializes in burning fat, and is important in the absorption of iron.
  • Ideally, eat a half ounce to an ounce of liver every day, or 3-8 oz per week; eat a few foods from tier 2 (kidney, heart, almonds) or 3 (red meat, cheese, eggs, salmon, mushrooms, seaweed, sesame, wheat germ and bran) every day, and minimize sugar.
  • High-fat diets, cardio, weight loss, tanning, and low-MTHFR genes require doubling or tripling down on the superfoods.
  • Various disease states, alcoholism, anorexia, and thyroid and adrenal problems are all red flags.

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

  • Niacin is especially important to your mind, gut, and skin.
  • Stress and injury as innocent as simple sunlight or as serious as dangerous diseases all increase niacin needs.
  • 3 tbsp of unfortified nutritional yeast and 0.5-1 ounce of liver gives you all your vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

  • Pantothenic acid deficiency is most likely to cause fatigue and tiredness.
  • It may also cause poor mood, insomnia, gut problems, cramps, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.
  • Acne, high cholesterol, and poor wound healing might be helped by B5.
  • Shoot for 10 mg/d. A little nutritional yeast and liver give you way more than that.

Vitamin B6

  • B6 changes the amino acid from protein to carbs and neurotransmitters.
  • Insomnia, problems with mood or mental health, and anemia are the biggest clues of needing more B6.
  • High estrogen, high-protein, inflammation, certain drugs, and sulfites are the biggest reasons to need more.
  • A little nutritional yeast every day is the best insurance against deficiency.

Vitamin B7 (biotin)

  • Biotin is needed to synthesize fatty acids, a major component of cell membranes and inner components.
  • Red, scaly, skin on the face and genitals, depression, tiredness, and various neurological problems can indicate deficiency.
  • Pregnancy, dialysis, digestive disorders, and alcoholism are red flags for deficiency.
  • Egg whites are dangerous if they aren’t boiled, but including the yolks makes them fine.
  • 3 eggs a day or one serving of liver.

Vitamin B9 (folate)

  • Folate prevents anemia and birth defects, and supports mental, emotional, and physical health.
  • 2-3 servings of liver, legumes, or leafy greens.
  • Don’t wash veggies after cutting and don’t trust frozen veggies or canned beans.
  • Cutting out enriched flour can hurt folate status.
  • Sunlight, tanning smoking, alcohol, digestive disorders, various drugs, cancer, and rare genetic disorders hurt folate status.

Vitamin B12

  • B12 has all the benefits of folate in methylation and the prevention of anemia AND it prevents irreversible nervous system degeneration.
  • High intakes of folate can mask B12 deficiency and possibly even provoke its neurological problems.
  • Liver, clams, oysters, and nori allow you to get a day’s worth into a meal, which can slowly build a 30-year storage supply.
  • Meat, milk, cheese, chanterelle, black trumpet, and shiitake mushrooms allow you to break even when you eat a lot.
  • Eggs aren’t a good source.
  • Vegetarians and vegans are high-risk and should be proactive about testing or supplementing.
  • Elderly are at high risk due to poor absorption.


  • Choline supports all the methylation functions of folate and B12, and helps them focus on other tasks like preventing anemia and supporting the nervous system.
  • Choline itself protects against fatty liver, and supports fat digestion, muscle strength, and brain power.
  • Eggs, liver, and wheat germ are the best choline sources; meat, fish, nuts, seeds, and beans follow.

Vitamin C

  • Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, which involves unexplained bruising and bleeding inside the mouth.
  • Beyond scurvy, we need vitamin C for strong bones, robust immunity, resistance to illness and toxic stress, brain power, sex drive, love and affection, energy, healthy skin, and gray-resistant hair.
  • A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially raw, provides the most.
  • Organ meats and non-grain starches provide decent amounts.
  • Fresh meat and fish, especially shellfish, provide a little but not enough.
  • If you can’t hit 100-150 mg/d with food, you should supplement.

Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus

  • Deficiencies of all three lead to low bone mineral content.
  • Outside of deficiency, calcium and vitamin D make bones stronger while phosphorus makes them weaker.
  • Calcium protects against kidney stones within healthy dietary ranges.
  • Toxicities of all three nutrients cause soft tissue calcification.
  • Toxicities of vitamin D or phosphorus cause low bone mineral content, while calcium toxicity causes bone mineral content to get too high.
  • Most of us lie in the middle where calcium and vitamin D are on one team and phosphorus is on the other.
  • In this middle area, calcium and vitamin D protect against osteopenia and osteoporosis; phosphorus makes these diseases worse.
  • We also want “team calcium and vitamin D” for blood pressure, asthma, allergies, colds and flu, autoimmunity, insomnia, hormones, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Our best sources of vitamin D are sunshine, pastured egg yolks, cod liver oil, certain fish, or certain mushrooms (the mushrooms contain D2, possibly less effective than D3).
  • Sunshine is best mid-day, and this matters most outside of the summer and far from the equator.
  • The darker your skin, the more time you need in the sun, or the more you should focus on exposing more skin and lying down.
  • The best sources of calcium are dairy, bones, napa cabbage, Chinese mustard greens, bok choy, and high-calcium mineral water. Mix and match two for young kids, three for most adults, or four for women over 50, men over 70, or adolescents.
  • Try to meet your targets with food first, and use supplements to fill the gaps. Bone meal from a lead-tested product is the best by default. Calcium citrate is best for those who need to avoid phosphorus or collagen, or who are at high-risk of kidney stones.
  • Phosphorus deficiency is mainly a risk of mostly fat diets, starvation, anorexia, or eating disorders.
  • We can avoid getting too much phosphorus by avoiding processed foods.
  • Remember that vitamin D requirements go down when you get enough calcium and go up when you get too much phosphorus. Before concluding you need more D than recommended in the lessons, check your calcium/phosphorus balance.

Vitamin E

  • Vitamin E is needed to protect our tissues from wear and tear as we age. It is especially important to our brain health and our fertility, and helps protect us from chronic, degenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer.
  • The ratio of vitamin E to PUFA is more important than the absolute amount of vitamin E.
  • We should seek a high ratio and avoid excess total PUFA regardless of E.
  • High-PUFA whole foods are good when they supply needed nutrients but the oils should be avoided.
  • Grass-fed animal products and fresh whole plant foods should be the foundation of the diet. Cruelty-free red palm oil is the best source of additional E.
  • Most people don’t need a vitamin E supplement, but if you switch from high-PUFA oils to low-PUFA oils, it would be wise to supplement for about four years.

Vitamin K

  • Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting, calcium metabolism, hormonal health, exercise performance and cancer.
  • Vitamin K is split into K1 and K2. K1 is found in plant foods, K2 is found in animal and fermented foods (from either plant or animal).
  • Diets that exclude either animal or plants are at risk for inadequate vitamin K. Breast feeding mothers, people with kidney disease or who take statins are other at-risk groups.
  • 2 servings of dark green vegetables provide adequate K1. Natto and goose liver are best for K2, dark chicken meat, cheese, and egg yolks in larger amounts.

Essential fatty acids – Omega 6

  • EFA deficiency causes dandruff; inflamed, scaly skin; hair loss; low sex drive and infertility; low sex hormones; a blunted stress response in males and an exaggerated stress response in females.
  • EFA deficiency is cured by linoleic acid (plant oils) or arachidonic acid (liver and egg yolks), both of which are omega-6 PUFAs.
  • Arachidonic acid is what’s needed. Linoleic acid is just a precursor.
  • Arachidonic acid is also needed for stomach health, to prevent food intolerances, defense against infection, resolution of chronic inflammation, and the confidence to explore the world without anxiety.
  • EFA deficiency is mainly a concern for growing children, pregnant or nursing mothers, bodybuilders in a gaining phase, and those dealing with chronic diseases or recovering from disease or injury.
  •  One gram of linoleic acid or 133 mg arachidonic acid for every 2000 Calories are sufficient in most cases.
  • Any diet of natural, whole foods will provide one gram of linoleic acid, but 133 mg arachidonic acid requires 2 egg yolks or 100 grams of liver. Fungi-derived supplements might be vegan.
  • Meeting the target for arachidonic acid is an insurance policy against poor conversion from linoleic acid.
  • Poor conversion can be caused by genetics; diabetes; insulin resistance; inadequate protein, calories, or carbs; inadequate biotin, B6, riboflavin, calcium, or zinc; sugar; or reheated vegetable oils.
  • Activation of arachidonic acid can be hurt by NSAIDs, acetaminophen, natural anti-inflammatories from foods or herbs, or EPA from fish or fish oil.
  • Anyone at any life stage should be concerned with activation and the solution is to reduce the things impairing activation.
  • Adjust your approach for increasing intakes of linoleic acid or arachidonic acid, or removing factors that impair the activation of arachidonic acid, according to what helps improve anything that seems like EFA deficiency symptoms. Don’t use more than you need.

Essential fatty acids – Omega 3

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the omega-3 version of linoleic acid, and is found in plant oils. Docosohexaenoic acid (DHA) is the omega-3 version of arachidonic acid, and is found mainly in fish, liver, and egg yolk.
  • We convert ALA to DHA to prevent the neurological problems of omega-3 deficiency.
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is an intermediate along the way from ALA to DHA.
  • Inflammation Resolution is an Active Process Requiring Arachidonic Acid and DHA.
  • Pregnant and nursing moms should aim for 2 grams per day of EPA and DHA, with an emphasis on DHA.
  • Kids should be breast-fed as long as practical, and should be weaned on to a diet containing as much fatty fish as they’re willing to eat, up to age 4.
  • Most adults should be fine with 150 mg/d DHA, which can be obtained from five pasture-raised egg yolks per day or from one serving of fatty fish per week.
  • In the cases of ADHD, autism, age-associated memory loss, migraines, depression, or atrial fibrillation, 2 grams of EPA and DHA may be warranted. In most cases, err on the side of getting more DHA, but with depression try getting more EPA.
  • In the case of stubbornly high triglycerides, 4 grams per day of EPA may be warranted.
  • Fish oil or cod liver oil can be used to meet these requirements. They vary in their DHA and EPA content, so check the label. Cod liver oil has the benefit of extra A and D.
  • Vegans present a special case. Most of the talk on the internet about the omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio doesn’t apply to people who are getting arachidonic acid and DHA, because the ratio mainly affects the ability to get these fatty acids from plant oils. Vegans who rely entirely on plant oils should aim for an omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio of no more than 4:1, and ideally close to 1:1. This still doesn’t fix the poor conversion problem, however. Vegans are better off hitting the targets with arachidonic acid supplements from the fungus Mortierella alpina and with DHA supplements from algal oil.

Yoh, thats a lot.

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