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Essential Nutrients for Health

Donald Aulds, M.D.

It can be difficult trying to understand what we need to include for a healthy because a lot of information and misinformation is available and easily accessible. When you read books or look on the internet, there are many options presented that may confuse you as to what is essential. In light of this I will try to cover what many experts feel are the most essential nutrient necessary for good health.

The typical American diet does not usually contain all of the nutrients needed, so often supplementation will be necessary. As the soil is farmed over and over, the foods that are grown in worn out soil no longer provides the necessary nutrients that were found in foods 50 to 100 years ago. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that less than 10 percent of the U.S. population consumes a good diet rich in essential nutrients. In 2002, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association recommended that all adults need to take supplements to maintain health as the food sources available in the U.S. no longer contains necessary nutrients.


  • B complex vitamins – minimal recommendations for B complex vitamins is 50-75 mg daily. B complex vitamins help the body to generate energy and provide necessary nutrients for the brain, heart and nervous system. The B complex is made up of eight vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid and cyanocobalamin.
    • Thiamin (1.2 mg/day) is essential for proper carbohydrate metabolism and is found in enriched grains, legumes, nuts & seeds, pork and whole grains.
    • Riboflavin (1.3 mg/day) acts in red blood cell formation and protein and fat metabolism and is found in avocados, beef, grains, eggs, fish liver and mushrooms.
    • Niacin (16 mg/day) is an effective aid to lower cholesterol promotes healthy skin, decrease depression, insomnia and arthritis and is found in eggs, grains, dairy products and meats.
    • Pantothenic acid (4-7 mg/day) acts in energy production, and fighting chronic fatigue, migraines and allergies and is found in fish, legumes, poultry, grains and yogurt.
    • Pyridoxine (1.5-1.7 mg/day) is needed in almost every function of the body and assists in relieving PMS and asthma attacks and is found in avocados, bananas, fish, poultry and potatoes.
    • Biotin (30-100 mcg/day) helps with hair and nail health and is found in cauliflower, legumes, liver, nuts, rice, soy, wheat and barley.
    • Folic acid is essential in pregnancy and helps to stabilize homocysteine (excess is seen in heart disease) and is found in beans, green vegetables, oranges and grains.
    • Cyanocobalamin is important for red blood development and is found in cheese, eggs, fish, oysters, yeast and beef.
  • Vitamin C – a great antioxidant that is necessary for collagen production. It supports the immune system with positive effects on the liver and kidneys. Many experts are now recommending a time-release form to allow for high absorption by the tissues. Recommendation of the government varies from 75-100 mg daily.
  • Vitamin E – the form of vitamin E that is used by the body is the d-alpha tocopherol, not the dl- alpha form. Multiple studies have shown that low levels of vitamin E have been associated with higher risk of cancers. It is the premium antioxidant with beneficial effects for the heart and circulation. Different studies have recommended different requirements for health but the usual options are 200-400 IU daily.


  • Calcium – important in bone health, nerve conduction and heart function. The recommended quantity is 1000-1200 mg daily.
  • Magnesium – important in bone health, oxygen transport and immune function – daily recommended intake is 400 mg.
  • Selenium – important in breast and bone health, immune function and possible decrease in certain cancers – average dosage is 50-70 mcg daily.
  • Sodium – used in multiple functions of the body. For years, we’ve been cautioned about using salt, but now studies show that refined salt is the problem. Pure sea salt has not been shown to cause the same negative effects on the body. In fact, studies done in the U.S. and Europe have shown that pure sea salt has reduced hypertension and heart disease.
  • Potassium – important in the function of the nervous system, heart and most every tissue of the body. Usually obtained in foods like oranges, bananas, green vegetables and legumes.

The article is an attempt to try to introduce some of the most important nutrients that all adults should be receiving either in diet or through supplements. If you have questions, speak to your doctor about your health.

More about Dr. Aulds

Donald G. Aulds, MD is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and currently serves as the Medical Director for both the Women's Center and the Best Start Program of North Alabama. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Dr. Aulds completed his medical education at Louisiana State University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA and his Internship and Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ochsner Medical Foundation, New Orleans, LA.

Dr. Aulds has been an active member of the Huntsville Hospital Medical Staff since 1980.