Nutrition 101

How to Eat Your Vitamins

It's possible to get your daily quota from your plate instead of the drugstore shelf. Here, the nutrients you need every day and how to get them from your diet.

Fish with broccoli, beans, nuts and an orangeAnita Calero

Calcium

What it does for you: It is essential for bone health and plays an important role in preventing osteoporosis.

How much you need daily: Up to age 50, women should get at least 1,000 milligrams daily; those over 50 should get at least 1,200. The body can't absorb more than 500 milligrams of calcium at a time, so small doses are best.

Best food sources: Dairy products are the most calcium-dense foods, but smaller amounts can be found in legumes and dark green, leafy vegetables.

How to eat enough of it: An eight-ounce glass of skim milk, one cup of yogurt, one cup of cooked spinach, and one fig will get you to your calcium goal. If you don't eat dairy, look for calcium-fortified soy milk or orange juice.


Vitamin D

What it does for you: It enhances calcium absorption. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis and has been linked to certain cancers, as well as to multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.

How much you need daily: Two hundred IUs for women up to age 50, and 400 to 600 IUs for those over 50.*

Best food sources: Although some is found in fatty fishes, like tuna and salmon, most of our vitamin D comes from fortified foods, like milk and cereal. The body also produces its own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

How to eat enough of it: If you're under 50, one 3 1/2-ounce serving of salmon or two cups of fortified milk will give you the RDA. Ten to 15 minutes of sunlight (with no sunscreen) two to three times a week is usually sufficient, too.

*Fat-soluble vitamins, such as D and E, are typically measured in IUs, or international units, instead of milligrams or micrograms. 

 
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Quick Tip

Nuts

Juice may serve up vitamins, but it won’t do much to ease hunger: Unlike solid foods, liquids don’t trip the brain’s satiety mechanism. For a more effective snack, pair a glass of 100 percent juice with a few nuts. Get more tips.