The Nutrients You Need Most

Here, the nutrients you're most likely lacking - and easy ways to get them.

Vitamin D

  • Why you need it: Vitamin D helps you maintain strong bones, boosts immunity, and may keep cancer cells from growing, according to a Harvard University study. An expert panel recently stated that women under age 50 may need 10 times more than the currently recommended 200 IUs daily.
  • How to get it: Drink two glasses of D-fortified milk or O.J. daily, and consider some sun: UV radiation triggers your skin to produce vitamin D, and some studies have linked this form of D to a lower risk of breast cancer. Up to 15 minutes outside between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. twice a week wearing SPF 8 or lower is plenty, says Joan Pleuss, R.D., a nutritionist at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. But don't overdo it, and if you have a family history of skin cancer, ask your doctor first.
Magnesium
  • Why you need it: Low levels may cause menstrual migraines and tension-type headaches, and up your diabetes risk.
  • How to get it: For starters, eat regular meals. In a recent study, adults who ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks were more likely to meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium than those who didn't. "Small amounts of magnesium are in many foods, so eating more meals increases your odds of getting enough," says Pleuss. A top source: nuts. An ounce of most types offers up to 20 percent of the RDA (320 mg for women over age 30).
Iron
  • Why you need it: Not getting enough iron puts you at risk for anemia and may also lead to fatigue or hair loss.
  • How to get it: Fire up the grill! Three ounces of beef provides about 20 percent of the RDA (18 mg for women under 50). So does a serving of beans, tofu, or spinach, although the iron from plant foods isn't absorbed as easily by your body. "Add a tomato salad or a few orange wedges to a vegetarian meal - the vitamin C will help your body better utilize the iron," says Dee Sandquist, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Are you missing other crucial nutrients in your diet? See the other NUTRIENTS YOU NEED MOST here.

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Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.