Alas, there's no magic pill in the world of nutrition that'll help you shed unwanted pounds. But not getting enough of certain important minerals and vitamins that help with weight loss may actually make dropping pounds that much harder.
While no one vitamin can suddenly induce weight loss, getting the right amounts of vital nutrients from a balanced diet supports your metabolism, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This — along with cutting calories from reduced portion sizes and regular exercise — can in turn can help you on your weight-loss journey.
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In general, it's best to get your vitamins and minerals through food sources, per the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. But if you suspect you might be deficient in certain nutrients or otherwise have trouble getting enough of a particular vitamin, ask your doctor if supplements might be right for you.
So, what vitamins help you lose weight? Read on to learn about which nutrients can help you shed pounds and where to find them.
1. B Vitamins
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play an important part in metabolizing food into energy, per the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). According to the National Health Service, B complex vitamins include:
- thiamin (vitamin B1)
- riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- niacin (vitamin B3)
- pantothenic acid
- vitamin B6
- biotin (vitamin B7)
- folate and folic acid
- vitamin B12
And because these vitamins are good for your metabolism function, they help your body actually process the nutrients in your food, according to February 2016 research in Nutrients, without which losing weight may be more challenging.
Because B vitamins are water-soluble, your body is unable to store them in excess and instead eliminates them in your urine, per the Nutrients research. As a result, it's important to get enough of the vitamin — typically 1.3 milligrams of B6 and 2.4 milligrams of B12 per day for adults, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
You can get your fill by eating vitamin B-rich foods, including:
- Fish like salmon
- Whole grains like brown rice
- Legumes like lentils and beans
- Vegetables like spinach, asparagus and broccoli
- Fruits like oranges and avocados
- Soy products like tofu and soy milk
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2. Vitamin D
And it appears that vitamin D and weight loss are also connected: For example, low levels of the vitamin are more common in people with obesity, according to an April 2015 review in Obesity Review.
While the connection between vitamin D and obesity isn't totally clear, scientists theorize that vitamin D may play a role in regulating fat mass, which could contribute to weight gain and obesity, per a March 2012 review in the International Journal of Obesity.
Indeed, a July 2018 study in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine looked at the effect of vitamin D supplementation on weight loss in a cohort of people assigned female at birth (AFAB) with overweight and obesity and found that after six weeks of this regimen, weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist and hip circumference decreased significantly.
But researchers also noted that the relationship between vitamin D and things like blood pressure and glycemic indexes isn't clear, so more studies are still needed to better understand the link between the nutrient and weight loss.
Regardless, vitamin D is still an important part of a balanced diet. Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people ages 2 and older should aim to get 600 international units (IU) each day. And when it comes to an upper limit, it's generally safest for adults to cap daily dosing at 4,000 IU, according to the ODS.
That said, supplemental doses of vitamin D ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 IU have been found to be safe for people with a deficiency, according to a May 2019 study in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
- Fish like trout, salmon and halibut
- Fortified tofu
- Milk or soy milk
Spending time in the sun (with sunscreen, of course) can also help improve your vitamin D levels, per the Mayo Clinic.
Will Vitamin D3 Help You Lose Weight?
While research suggests that vitamin D may indeed help with weight loss, how about vitamin D3 specifically?
Vitamin D3 is one of the main forms of the nutrient that our body can absorb, and is often found in vitamin D-rich foods, per the ODS. Accordingly, eating enough vitamin D3 may benefit weight loss in the ways described above.
And it turns out that vitamin D and calcium may go hand-in-hand when it comes to taking vitamins for weight loss: For instance, a January 2013 study in the Nutrition Journal found that people with obesity who were taking calcium plus vitamin D lost more body fat on a reduced-calorie diet than those not taking any supplement.
As always, though, it's best to get the calcium you need through your diet before turning to pills, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — 1,000 milligrams per day (or 1,200 milligrams, if you're a person AFAB over age 51), to be exact.
Here are some calcium-rich foods to add to your meals:
- Dairy products like cheese and yogurt
- Fish like sardines and salmon
- Leafy greens like kale and collard greens
- Soy products like tofu and soybeans
Talk to your doctor about whether you should take a supplement — calcium or otherwise — as the FDA doesn't require these products to be proven safe or effective before they are sold, so there’s no guarantee that any pill you take is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another vitamin that may help with weight loss. It's an antioxidant helps your body produce more blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and bone collagen and protects your cells from damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.
And as it turns out, the nutrient may be another one of the vitamins that help with weight loss.
A June 2020 review in the International Journal of Medical Sciences found that vitamin C supplementation was linked to lower body weight and waist circumference. It was also associated with a decreased risk for metabolic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar.
Weight loss aside, it's important to get enough of the nutrient for your overall wellbeing. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, this is how much adults should get per day:
- People AFAB: 75 mg
- People assigned male at birth (AMAB): 90 mg
Here are some good sources of vitamin C to include in your diet:
- Fruits like guava, kiwi, strawberries and oranges
- Vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
And it's this role in energy production that may count magnesium among the best vitamins for weight loss and metabolism: Indeed, a December 2018 study in Nutrition Journal found that taking more magnesium may help lower your BMI and waist circumference. However, more research is needed to better establish this connection.
Nonetheless, getting enough magnesium is crucial for your overall functioning. Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, here's how much adults should get every day:
- People AFAB: 310 to 320 mg
- People AMAB: 400 to 420 mg
Good sources of magnesium include:
- Leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach
- Squash and potatoes
Iron is another important mineral that can help with weight loss, albeit indirectly. Iron helps deliver oxygen to your muscles, which helps them function at their best, per the ODS. It also supports muscle growth and healthy connective tissue.
On the flip side, a lack of iron can mean low energy and weakness, according to the Mayo Clinic. And it can be hard to sustain weight loss-supporting habits like regular exercise without that fuel for your muscles.
The takeaway? Make sure to get enough of the mineral through food or, if your doctor recommends it, an iron supplement. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim for the following amounts per day:
- People AFAB: 8 to 18 mg
- People AMAB: 8 mg
Iron-rich foods to work into your diet include:
- Meat like chicken liver, beef and duck
- Whole grains like quinoa and oatmeal
- Legumes like lentils and beans
- Dried fruit like apricots and prunes
- Vegetables like spinach and mushrooms
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin D"
- Obesity Review: "Obesity and Vitamin D Deficiency: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Nutrition Journal: "Calcium Plus Vitamin D3 Supplementation Facilitated Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese College Students With Very-Low Calcium Consumption: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- International Journal of Obesity: "The Link Between Obesity and Low Circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations: Considerations and Implications"
- International Journal of Preventative Medicine: "Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Weight Loss, Glycemic Indices, and Lipid Profile in Obese and Overweight Women: A Clinical Trial Study"
- Nutrition Journal: "Higher dietary magnesium intake is associated with lower body mass index, waist circumference and serum glucose in Mexican adults"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin B12"
- Mayo Clinic: "Is it possible to take too much vitamin C?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin D"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Can you boost your metabolism?"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: "Daily oral dosing of vitamin D3 using 5000 TO 50,000 international units a day in long-term hospitalized patients: Insights from a seven year experience"
- Mayo Clinic: "Calcium and calcium supplements: Achieving the right balance"
- FDA: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”
- Nutrients: "B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review"
- Mayo Clinic: "Vitamin C"
- International Journal of Medical Sciences: "Vitamin C: A Review on its Role in the Management of Metabolic Syndrome"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Magnesium"
- Office of Dietary Supplements: "Iron"
- Mayo Clinic: "Iron deficiency anemia"
- National Health Service: "B vitamins and folic acid"
- Colorado State University Extension: Water-Soluble Vitamins: B-Complex and Vitamin C