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Nutrient Library

CALCIUM

What does it do?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Calcium’s primary role is to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium helps muscles contract, nerves transmit signals, blood clot and blood vessels contract and expand. These functions are so vital that your body will extract calcium from your bones and teeth if you aren’t getting enough from your diet.

What are the best food sources?
Milk, cheese, yogurt, calcium-set tofu (tofu prepared with calcium salts; check the label), kale and broccoli are all good sources. If you are worried about the fat content in dairy foods, choose low-fat and fat-free versions, which are usually no different in their calcium content.
You may have heard that calcium from vegetables is not as available to your body as calcium from dairy sources. This is true to some extent. Calcium is poorly absorbed from some vegetables and beans, such as spinach, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, red beans and pinto beans. For example, just one-tenth of the calcium from spinach is absorbed compared to that from milk sources. However, just as much calcium is absorbed from vegetables in the kale family (broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, mustard greens) as from milk sources. While this is good news, keep in mind that some vegetables contain more calcium per gram than others. For example, you would have to consume much greater amounts of broccoli to get the same amount you might get from kale.

IRON

What does it do?

Iron is a critical mineral in the body, it is required to transport oxygen from the lungs to the cells in the body and for oxygen storage in the muscles. And, although iron is one of the most abundant elements on earth, it is also one of the most frequently observed deficiencies in the world.

What are the best food sources?
There are two forms of iron in the diet: heme and nonheme. In foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry and fish, about half the iron is heme iron and the rest is nonheme. Iron from dairy foods, eggs and plant-based foods is entirely nonheme. Iron is better absorbed by the body from heme sources. Vitamin C also improves absorption of both forms of iron when consumed at the same meal. Fortified products, such as breads, cereals and breakfast bars, can contribute significant amounts of nonheme iron to the diet. For example, some fortified cereals can contain up to 24 mg of iron per 1-cup serving.

ZINC

What does it do?
Zinc supports a healthy immune system, participates in wound healing and helps form the structure of proteins and cell membranes.

What are the best food sources?
Good food sources of zinc include beef, shellfish (crab and oysters) and dark meat, such as that found in chicken and turkey. Whole grains tend to be richer in zinc than refined grains because processing removes portions of the grain that contain the majority of the mineral.

Vitamin A

What does it do?


Vitamin A helps cell reproduction. It also plays an important role in immunity by protecting you from infection. It is needed for formation of some hormones. Vitamin A helps vision and promotes bone growth, tooth development, and helps maintain healthy skin, hair, and mucous membranes. It has been shown to be an effective agent in prevention of measles.


What are the best food sources?


Vitamin A (retinol) is found in both animal and plant based foods. Meat and protein sources of vitamin A would be cheeses like cheddar and cream cheese, cow’s milk, goats milk and eggs.   Vegetable sources of vitamin A include green leafy vegetables and orange vegetables. To easily meet your recommended intakes, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests 3 cups per week of dark leafy green vegetables and 2 cups per week of orange vegetables.