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Among the many nutrients we depend upon, these are likely the most underrated and underused.

Most Overlooked Vitamin

Many of us lack vitamin D because of too little sun exposure and not enough cold-water fish in our diets, and the consequences can be deadly. One study found that low levels of vitamin D increase risk of death from any cause by 26 percent.

There isn’t one telltale symptom of insufficient vitamin D, but these are some possible signs:

  • A tender shin bone. If you gently press on your shin bone and it feels extremely tender, this could be a sign of softening of the bones, technically known as osteomalacia, due to lack of vitamin D.
  • General aches and pains for no apparent reason.
  • A depressed mood.
  • Susceptibility to colds, flu, or pneumonia.
  • Being overweight.

Key Missing Mineral

Magnesium is essential for more than 300 different biochemical reactions in the body, but government surveys show that many of us aren’t getting enough. Symptoms can range from irritating
PMS or muscle spasms to insomnia, heart disease, depression, and anxiety.

Even a seemingly perfect diet doesn’t guarantee adequate amounts, because food is grown in mineral-depleted soils. For example, collard greens—vegetables that should be a rich source—contain 85 percent less magnesium today than in 1975. Birth control pills and stress deplete the mineral.

Beware of Calcium Overload

Lack of magnesium can cause a calcium overload, contributing to some forms of arthritis, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and calcification of the arteries. According to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, and author of The Magnesium Miracle, an ideal diet should contain equal amounts of calcium and magnesium, as it did in the days of cavemen. But today, calcium intake is between five and fifteen times that
of magnesium.

How Much Do You Need?

Vitamin D: Using your weight, you can customize your vitamin D dose, according to James Dowd, MD, author of The Vitamin D Cure. Based on an examination of all the available vitamin D research and many years of testing patients’ vitamin D levels, Dowd recommends an average of 20 IU per pound of body weight for Caucasians and 25 IU per pound for those with darker skins. As a guide, most physicians who are trained in nutrition recommend 1,000–2,000 IU daily, but also recommend getting blood levels tested.

Magnesium: The government-recommended daily amount is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women, but individual needs vary. Too much, especially if taken all at once, can have a laxative effect. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, recommends starting with 150–200 mg daily and building up to 400 mg once or twice per day—until your bowel movements are comfortably loose. As an alternative to pills, a naturally flavored, powdered form can be mixed in your water bottle. Soaking in a bath with Epsom salts is another way to absorb magnesium.

Eat Up!

In addition to supplementing with vitamin D and magnesium, you can also boost your intake of these nutrients through diet. Here are the best food sources of vitamin D and magnesium, respectively.

Vitamin D-rich Foods:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Goat’s milk
  • Cow’s milk (from grass-fed cows)
  • Eggs
  • Shiitake mushrooms

Magnesium-Rich Foods:

  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Firm tofu
  • Baked halibut
  • Cooked oatmeal
  • Shrimp

If you want more information about your favorite foods or a specific nutrient, visit (The World’s Healthiest Foods). This is one of the best online resources for trustworthy nutritional information.

Amazing Wellness contributing editor Vera Tweed has been writing about nutrition, fitness, and healthy living since 1997.

Our Product Picks:

NATURAL VITALITY Natural Calm (shown here in Raspberry-Lemon flavor) provides magnesium in a highly absorbable, water-soluble, ionic form that is immediately available to the body. Just mix with water. Also available in convenient individual travel packets.

THE VITAMIN SHOPPE Liquid D3 supplies 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 with just 5 drops. Mix into water or juice, or take with food.