How to Boost Your Metabolism with Vitamins and Minerals
What do vitamins and minerals have to do with metabolism and how our body processes our food?
We need vitamins and minerals to help us break down our food and convert it to energy. Vitamins and minerals are the little helpers. Without enough of particular vitamins or minerals our metabolism can suffer. In the nutrition world, we call vitamins and minerals, micronutrients.
Micro means small, thus micronutrients are only needed in the body in small amounts. Although they are needed in small amounts, they are very important to your health. Micronutrients boost metabolism, produce enzymes, strengthen bones, support growth, help produce hormones, strengthen our immune system, and support cell and muscle repair.
If we think of a brick house, we can visualize how our food can be broken down into macronutrients and micronutrients. The macronutrients or fats, carbohydrates, and proteins are the building blocks of our food, the “bricks” of our house. The micronutrients are the cement between the bricks. The macronutrients are the big picture, the calories in our diets and the micronutrients are the small picture. We need both to give us energy and keep us feeling well.
For vitamins and minerals, some vitamins are more integral to our metabolism than others. Some of the most important are the B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc. The B vitamins are major processors of energy, Vitamin D helps with insulin sensitivity, magnesium with cellular energy production, and zinc with enzymes for processing food.
B vitamins are essential for energy metabolism. There are 8 B vitamins and all of them support our metabolism.
pantothenic acid (B-5)
In particular, B1, B6, and B12 are needed for breakdown of our macronutrients. Thiamine (B1) supports metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, whereas pyridoxine (B6) supports metabolism of proteins, and B12 metabolism of proteins and fats.
Good food sources of the B vitamins are beans, lentils, milk, eggs, lean meat, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, and eggs.
B12 is only found in animal sources so vegetarians can have more difficulty ensuring they have sufficient B12. As we age we are also at greater risk for B12 deficiency since our stomach acid decreases and sufficient stomach acid is needed for absorption of B12. If you eat a strictly vegan diet or are aging you might want to consider a B12 supplement. According to the National Institute of Health, a combination of methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin is the most absorbable and bioavailable supplemental form of B12. There are oral sprays available that may also help with absorption if you are suffering from low stomach acid.
Vitamin D is our fat-soluble sunshine vitamin. We get most of our Vitamin D from sun exposure. In the winter, we may not get as much sun exposure and end up low in Vitamin D and thus start to feel the winter blues. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked with depression and obesity.
Vitamin D deficiency can affect insulin sensitivity. When we eat carbohydrates, they are converted to glucose and is then transported to our cells by insulin. The beta cells in our pancreas make insulin and Vitamin D helps to keep these cells free from inflammation and working optimally.
The best food source of Vitamin D is fatty cold-water fish like sardines or salmon. You should look for wild caught salmon which is higher in Vitamin D than the farm raised fish. Since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can build up in your body so it is best to be tested before supplementing with Vitamin D. One of the best ways to get Vitamin D is to go do some exercise outdoors in the sunshine. You get your Vitamin D and boost your activity level at the same time!
About half of the US population does not get enough magnesium in their diet. Magnesium is involved in more than 300 essential metabolic processes.
In a 2015 study, people with the highest magnesium intake had a 32% reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a grouping of symptoms including insulin resistance, obesity, and high cholesterol, and high blood pressure which put someone at a high risk for many chronic diseases. Read more a https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium.
There are lots of good food sources of magnesium. Magnesium is found in chlorophyll so think dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. You can also get magnesium from whole grains and nuts.
If you opt for a magnesium supplement, it is important to understand the chemical form of your supplement. There are a few different magnesium compounds used in supplement form and they work differently. Magnesium citrate is highly absorbable, but it does cause loosening of bowels which can be problematic for some people. Other forms of magnesium, like magnesium glycinate, can avoid this side effect. Or if you are looking for mental health benefits, magnesium theonate can be most effective since it crosses the blood brain barrier. It is best to consult with your health care provider to determine which supplement would be best for you.
Zinc is necessary to build a large number of enzymes that help speed along our processing of foods. Lean red meat, whole grains, and legumes are the best dietary sources of zinc. Plant base sources contain phytates, which can inhibit absorption so the most readily available sources are animal based. If you prefer plant based sources of zinc, there are things you can do to make the zinc more bioavailable. Sprouted or fermented grains and seeds have reduced phytate content and thus more readily absorbable zinc. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc and can be soaked and roasted to make them delicious and more nutritious. Here are some good instructions for soaking
These are just some of the micronutrients which support a healthy metabolism. As you work on ensuring you are eating a healthy whole foods diet you also might want to consider how you are getting these vitamins and minerals. It is also a matter of how your digestive system is absorbing your nutrients to ensure you have an adequate supply. This is where micronutrient testing can be useful to understand your levels and the best way to correct any deficiencies.
Book a free phone consultation to talk about how micronutrient testing can help you understand how to boost your metabolism.