Vitamin A, calcium, iron—most health-savvy people have a pretty solid understanding of these and other nutritional all-stars. But that’s probably not the case with certain lesser-known vitamins and minerals, which aren’t in the spotlight, yet play a big role in scoring you energy and repairing and preventing cell damage, among other tasks. Find out more about five nutrients you may never have heard of—and make sure you’re eating the right foods so you aren’t running low and risking a deficiency.
This nutrient helps your blood clot properly and regulates your body’s metabolism of calcium, says Toby Smithson, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com. Women require 90 micrograms per day, which you can get by eating green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.
Without proper levels of this mineral, cells can’t create energy, muscles can’t relax, bones aren’t as strong, and more than 300 enzyme reactions that help regulate a network of body functions are impaired. Women younger than 30 need 320 milligrams per day; after 30, the requirement goes up slightly to 320 milligrams. You can ratchet up your intake by consuming more beans, nuts, and whole grains, says Smithson.
This trace mineral partners with vitamin E to work as an antioxidant, combating cell damage and infection. Adults need 50 micrograms per day, while breastfeeding women need 70 micrograms daily. Awesome food sources include seafood, liver, chicken, and other meats. If you don’t eat animal products, you can obtain selenium from plant-based foods—but the quality of it depends on the selenium content of the soil the plant is grown in, says Smithson.
Your cells can’t function normally without this recently recognized mineral, says Smithson, since it partners with folic acid (vitamin B9) in a pregnant woman’s body to promote fetal development. And it’s not just vital for pregnant women, either—the nutrient is thought to have an impact on liver disease and neurological disorders, as well. Most women need 425 milligrams per day, while pregnant and breastfeeding women need to up that number to 450. The best sources of it are egg yolks, extra lean beef, and pistachios.
Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
Cobalamin works with folic acid (vitamin B9) to make red blood cells, cranking up your energy level. It also helps boost cognitive function and cell growth and helps your body utilize some amino acids. The RDA is 2.4 micrograms per day for adults but increases to 2.6 micrograms per day during pregnancy and 2.8 micrograms during breastfeeding. Food sources include mostly animal products—meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy—which makes it potentially difficult to get if you’re a vegan, says Smithson. If that’s the case, look for foods fortified with vitamin B12 (like some cereals) or talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.