Which 2 essential nutrients does everyone need?

This week in ‘Ask the nutritionist’, Nutritional Director Rick Hay explains why, even if you take nothing else, you need magnesium and vitamin C  

Perhaps you’re on a budget, or you simply don’t like the idea of taking lots of vitamin pills for no apparent reason. I get that. But I am often asked ‘Which essential nutrients does everyone need?’.  There’s no question that magnesium – especially for women – is a must and vitamin C, for immunity and anti-ageing is also vitally important.

Essential nutrient #1: Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body, involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It works on hormonal regulation, DNA replication and energy production.

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The best food sources for magnesium include green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. Green beans, broccoli, and cabbage will give you a boost along with extra nuts and seeds.

Fruit wise think of figs, avocados, bananas and raspberries. You can also increase your intake of beans and chickpeas, oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna will increase magnesium levels too.

Deficiency signs

If you are deficient you may experience eye twitches, fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches or even abnormal heart rhythms.

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Deficiency in magnesium could be one of the main reasons you suffer from headaches and migraines. Shown in a review by the National centre for Biotechnology magnesium supplementation can be used to help reduce the symptoms of migraines by using preventative treatment with oral magnesium and acute headache treatment.

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Nearly 50 percent of older adults suffer from insomnia, whether it is difficulty in getting to sleep or even waking up early. Ageing causes a number of changes in the body that increase your chances of having insomnia and these include age-related changes such as various circadian rhythms, environmental and lifestyle changes and decreased nutrient intake, absorption, retention and utilisation. Further studies of magnesium supplementation have shown that it could improve sleep.

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Bone and muscle health

Both low and high levels of magnesium are bad for bone health. Deficiency can increase the risks of osteoporosis and this effects millions of people worldwide and the majority of cases are postmenopausal women.

Research suggests that supplementation could help improve bone health and may help to reduce the incidence of osteoporosis.

Because magnesium is involved in numerous processes that affect muscle function including oxygen uptake, energy production and electrolyte balance you may need to increase your intake when exercising.

In a clinical trial of 12 weeks of physical performance in healthy elderly women, results have shown that  daily consumption of a magnesium supplement may help to boost exercise performance especially as we age.

It is also key for cardio vascular health, blood sugar balance and healthy nervous system function.

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Essential nutrient #2: Vitamin C

Vitamin C’s immune boosting properties make it the go to nutrient in cold and flu season however, vitamin C does so much more in the body.

Food sources

Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables. Up your intake of berries, cherries, citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, guava, peppers, brussel sprouts, chillies, broccoli, leafy greens, parsley and thyme if you want to top up on this water soluble vitamin.

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Vitamin C has been hailed a cold and flu preventative for decades.  Last year, a report published in the journal Nutrients concluded that, ‘Vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections by enhancing various immune cell functions…at levels of 100-200mg a day.’

The best form of vitamin C to supplement with is magnesium ascorbate. This is vitamin C buffered with magnesium, which makes it less acidic.

Dosage-wise, research suggests that doses of around 1000mg can be beneficial for supporting the immune system. However this can be increased during periods of ill health such as when you actually have a cold.

Hair, skin and nail health 

This super antioxidant also helps with iron absorption, collagen formation and is involved in wound healing. It’s role in collagen formation combined with its anti inflammatory properties means that vitamin C is commonly prescribed to help combat a range of skin conditions including acne, psoriasis and eczema. It is also used in the beauty industry to help with skin texture and to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Cardiovascular health

There is also some evidence in studies by National centre for Biotechnology that vitamin C has a cardio protective role, suggesting that it could help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and also shown in another study to help with healthy cholesterol levels.

Dietary sources and supplementation are important because unlike many mammals we do not make this water soluble vitamin in the body – if you suffer from recurrent infections or poor wound healing you may need to increase your intake.












Rick Hay recommends BioCare’s Vitamin C Rosehip Complex – 150g powder for £15.95 and Magnesium Powder – 90g powder for £14.45


Rick Hay is a nutritionist with a special interest in anti-ageing and many years clinical experience in nutrition, naturopathy and botanical medicine. He specializes in obesity treatment and weight management. He writes a regular Natural Health and Fitness Blog for Healthista. Find out more at rickhay.co.uk. Follow Rick on Twitter @rickhayuk

rick hay anti ageing fitness planRick Hay’s book the Anti Ageing Food and Fitness Plan is available to buy on Amazon. 


More from Ask the nutritionist:

6 immune boosters you need right now

The energy boosting supplement that could change the way you exercise

How to get healthy cholesterol levels





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