Vitamins and minerals are micro-nutrients, part of the 6 Essential Nutrients, required for your body to turn food into energy. Whole foods are the best source of vitamins and minerals, but it sometimes difficult to figure out if you are getting enough from the foods you eat. Below is a list of the most important vitamins and mineral women need and suggestions as to the best food sources. Note: Recommended daily allowances (RDA) listed below are for an average 45 year-old female.
- Why you need it: The body uses calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, to help muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and to carry messages through the nervous system. Women start to lose bone density in their twenties which can lead to osteoporosis over time. Calcium is one of the best defenses against bone loss.
- Where to find it: Milk, cheese, yogurt and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale.
- How much you need: 1000mg. Do not exceed 2,500mg.
- Why you need it: Iron carries oxygen in the body, aids in the production of red blood cells, supports immune function and cognitive development, and is essential for cell growth.
- Where to find it: Lean red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, cereals, whole-grains, beans and dark leafy vegetables. Also remember that vitamin C rich foods enhance absorption of iron.
- How much you need: 18mg. Do not exceed 45mg.
- Why you need it: Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, keeping heart rhythms steady, supporting a healthy immune system, regulating blood sugar levels and promoting normal blood pressure.
- Where to find it: Leafy green vegetables, whole grains, almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, beans, soybeans and halibut. Note that a diet very high in fat may cause less magnesium to be absorbed.
- How much you need: 320mg. Do not exceed 350mg in supplement form.
- Why you need it: Vitamin A ensures proper development and function of eyes, skin and immune system and may prevent some types of cancers.
- Where to find it: Leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits, dairy, liver, fish and fortified cereals.
- How much you need: 2,310 IU. Do not exceed 10,000 IU.
Folate (Vitamin B9):
- Why you need it: Folate helps to produce and maintain new cells. It is necessary for proper brain function for mental and emotional health, and helps protect against birth defects.
- Where to find it: Leafy green vegetables, fruits and beans. It is also often added to cereals, breads, pasta and rice.
- How much you need: 400 micrograms. Do not exceed 1,000 micrograms in the synthetic form.
- Why you need it: Vitamin C facilitates normal growth and development, and repairs bodily tissue, bones and teeth. It is used to produce collagen, functions as an antioxidant to block some of the damage caused by free radicals and boosts the body’s immune system.
- Where to find it: Most fruits and vegetables especially citrus fruit, red peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and strawberries.
- How much you need: 75mg. Do not exceed 2,000mg.
- Why you need it: Biotin plays an essential role in energy production and the metabolism of sugar and fats. It is also believed to aid in healthy hair, nails and skin.
- Where to find it: Nuts, eggs, soybeans, cauliflower, fish, avocados and berries.
- How much you need: There is no RDA, but generally 30 to 100 micrograms.
Other B Vitamins:
- Why you need them: The B vitamins help the body convert food into fuel for energy. They contribute to healthy skin, hair, and eyes and also help to maintain muscle tone, metabolism, nervous system functions and memory.
- Where to find them: Fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and many fortified cereals and whole grains.
- How much you need:
- B1 (Thiamine): 1.1mg. No upper limits have been set.
- B2 (Riboflavin): 1.1 mg. No upper limits have been set.
- B3 (Niacin): 14mg. Do not exceed 35/mg in supplement form.
- B6 (Pyridoxine): 1.3 mg. Do not exceed 100mg.
- B12 (Cobalamin): 2.4 mg. No upper limits have been set.
- Why you need it: Vitamin D regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorous in our bones and it is needed for bone and cell growth. It also helps to reduce inflammation.
- Where to find it: Fortified mils and cereals, eggs yolks and fish. The body can make Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.
- How much you need: 15 micrograms. Do not exceed 100 micrograms.
- Why you need it: Omega-3 assists in proper brain function, helps reduce high blood pressure and calms inflammation.
- Where to find it: Fish, especially salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel, flax seeds and walnuts.
- How much you need: There are no standard doses for Omega-3. Check with your doctor to find out your specific needs.
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