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7 Nutrients Your Diet May Be Missing

Who May Need Even More Nutrients? continued...

Iron

Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen to cells and tissues throughout the body. It's important for women to consume adequate iron before and during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a drag on iron stores and may cause iron-deficiency anemia in mom.

To avoid health problems, experts say women should include foods rich in heme-iron, the highly absorbable form found in animal foods, and include iron-rich plant foods or iron-fortified foods along with vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances the absorption of non-heme iron. The ideal amount is about 18 milligrams of iron daily for women ages 19 to 50. Pregnant women should get 27 milligrams a day.

Heme-iron sources include:

  • 3 ounces cooked beef: 3 milligrams
  • 3 ounces cooked turkey: 2 milligrams
  • 3 ounces cooked light meat chicken: 1 milligram

Non-heme iron sources:

  • 3/4 cup Whole Grain Total cereal: 22 milligrams
  • 1 cup fortified instant oatmeal: 10 milligrams
  • 1 cup cooked soybeans: 8 milligrams
  • 1 cup boiled kidney beans: 5 milligrams

Older Adults, People with Dark Skin, and Those Who Avoid the Sun

What do these groups have in common? They may lack vitamin D.

Vitamin D production is initiated in the skin in response to sunlight. People who avoid the sun may not make enough vitamin D. Ditto for people with darker complexions, who have a higher level of melanin, a natural sunscreen.

Age decreases the body's ability to make vitamin D, so older people may easily become deficient, even when they get enough sun. To make matters worse, vitamin D needs double after age 51 to at least 400 international units (IU) a day (the equivalent of four glasses of milk), and increase to 600 IU daily after age 70. Vitamin D research is quickly expanding. Some experts are now recommending 1000 IU of Vitamin D a day.

In addition, most foods are poor natural sources of vitamin D. That's why experts recommend consuming vitamin D from fortified foods, including milk and certain breakfast cereals, and from supplements. You may need a mixture of both to get the vitamin D your body requires.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on September 21, 2012

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