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Metabolism is the process the body uses to break down food and nutrients for energy and to support different functions. Certain vitamins and minerals may help boost the metabolism.

A faster metabolism burns calories more quickly than a slower one, making it less likely that a person will put on weight. A person’s metabolism naturally slows down as they age.

Some vitamins and minerals may help keep the metabolism working effectively. While supplements can help, whole foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals.

The five best vitamins and minerals for maintaining and boosting body functions, including metabolism, and supporting good weight control, are as follows:

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A variety of B vitamins are important for metabolism.

The B vitamins play many essential roles in energy metabolism in the body. The B vitamins include:

  • B-12
  • biotin
  • folate
  • B-6
  • pantothenic acid or B-5
  • niacin or B-3
  • riboflavin or B-2
  • thiamine or B-1

Deficiency in one of the B vitamins can affect other B vitamins, which can disrupt a person’s metabolism.

The ability to process fats, proteins, and carbohydrates is essential. A healthy metabolism ensures that the body uses these nutrients for energy rather than storing them as fat.

People must regularly eat foods that contain B vitamins to meet their daily needs.

Good choices of foods that contain B vitamins include:

  • lean meats and seafood
  • whole grains, including barley and brown rice
  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • some fruits, such as bananas, apples, grapes, and watermelon
  • nuts and seeds
  • some vegetables, including spinach, potatoes, and squash

B-12 is present only in animal products, meaning vegetarians and vegans may have difficulty consuming enough of this vitamin.

In addition to dairy products, the following foods may contain B-12:

  • fortified plant-based milk
  • nutritional yeast
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • meat substitutes
  • some spreads, such as Marmite
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Fortified milks and cereals can provide vitamin D.

Two studies looked at vitamin D and weight in older women and children. Both found those participants with more fat had lower vitamin D levels than those with less fat.

Researchers are currently unsure about whether low vitamin D contributes to obesity or vice versa. Diet, blood sugar control, and time spent outdoors may all play a role in a person’s weight.

Research suggests that vitamin D may help control blood sugar and improve insulin resistance in people with diabetes.

Unlike other essential vitamins, people can get vitamin D from sunlight. Safe exposure to the sun is the fastest way to top up vitamin D.

Foods that contain vitamin D include:

  • egg yolks
  • fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines
  • cod liver oil
  • beef liver
  • fortified dairy
  • fortified plant-based milk
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • some types of mushrooms

If a person is overweight, vitamin supplementation alone may not improve weight. Weight loss has to come from lifestyle changes as well.

Nevertheless, a study in 2016 found that postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes, eating vitamin D-fortified yogurt, improved their blood sugar levels and reduced inflammation. They also experience reduced waist size.

An older study found that taking calcium with added vitamin D together slightly reduced the risk of weight gain in postmenopausal women.

People should have their vitamin D levels checked annually and talk to their doctor about supplements if their levels remain low.

Further resources

For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.

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Following on from the above, emerging research further suggests calcium may be vital to a healthy metabolism and blood sugar control, as well as healthy bones.

Some research from 2010 suggests that higher calcium intake combined with vitamin D can assist diet-related weight loss.

An older study in 2007 found that a diet high in dairy calcium enhanced weight loss in people with type 2 diabetes.

However, more recent research is needed to determine whether this is an effective weight loss strategy.

While calcium supplements are available, it is best for people to get enough calcium from food sources first.

Foods high in calcium are:

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • fortified cereals
  • fortified orange juice
  • dark green, leafy vegetables
  • seeds
  • almonds
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Brown rice and tofu are good sources of iron.

The body needs iron for healthy growth, development, and metabolism. Iron is also vital for correct cell functioning and the creation of some hormones.

Iron is essential for carrying oxygen in red blood cells. The red blood cells carry oxygen to and from muscles and tissues in the body.

If a person has low iron levels, they may not send enough oxygen to their muscles. Muscles that are low in oxygen cannot burn fat for fuel as well as they should. Low iron also interferes with optimum metabolism in the body.

Sources of iron include:

  • meat
  • beans
  • fortified cereals
  • brown rice
  • nuts
  • dark green, leafy vegetables
  • tofu and soybeans

Although iron is vital, it is also toxic when consumed in high doses. People should, therefore, talk to a doctor or dietitian about whether they have an iron deficiency before they take supplements.

Without magnesium, the chemical reactions that produce energy in the body cannot happen. This dependency means that magnesium is essential for metabolism and energy production.

Magnesium is available in a wide variety of foods, including:

  • nuts and seeds
  • legumes
  • spinach
  • bananas
  • salmon and halibut
  • whole grains
  • potatoes

People can also take magnesium supplements but should speak to a doctor first, as they may have adverse effects in people with some underlying health conditions.

Anyone thinking about taking new vitamin or mineral supplements to boost their metabolism and lose weight should speak to a doctor first.

Taking these vitamins and minerals will not necessarily improve metabolism. However, they will help ensure adequate nutrition and correct deficiencies if they exist, which may help prevent unintentional weight gain and maintain a healthy metabolism.

Some supplements may cause adverse effects in high doses, make health conditions worse, or interact with a person’s medication is already taking.

The safest way to consume more metabolism-boosting vitamins and minerals is by eating a healthful, balanced diet that is varied and nutritious.

If necessary, vitamin and mineral supplements are available in many health food stores or online: