Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals and any other dietary compounds essential for normal body growth, development and function. Foods in the United States such as salt, milk and cereal are fortified to ensure the population has a sufficient amount of crucial dietary elements. The World Health Organization cautions that the absence of micronutrients in the diet is a major threat to health and development of children and adult world wide.
Iron is a micronutrient essential to proteins involved in transporting oxygen in the body, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. The recommended daily intake for iron is 18 milligrams for women under the age of 50. Iron deficiency causes fatigue, decreased immunity and anemia, but excessive amounts are toxic and sometimes fatal. A list of foods provided by the ODS indicates that chicken liver, soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, oysters and lima beans are the leading dietary sources of iron in non-fortified foods. The leading fortified source of iron is ready-to-eat cereal. The ODS advises eating iron in combination with meat proteins. Foods with vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and bell peppers, improve iron absorption, while calcium can decrease absorption.
Vitamin A plays an important role in bone growth, cell division, immune system regulation and it also promotes the health of the surface linings of your eyes, lungs and intestinal tracts. Vitamin A comes from both plant and animal sources. Preformed vitamin A is most prevalent in beef liver, chicken liver and fortified skim milk. Colorful fruits and vegetables like carrots, spinach, kale and cantaloupe are among the richest sources of provitamin A. Women should aim to consume 700 micrograms of vitamin A each day.
Required for good health, selenium is a trace mineral needed in small amounts. The body incorporates selenium into proteins with antioxidant properties that help prevent cellular damage, according to information provided by the Office of Dietary Supplements. Plant and animal foods are sources of selenium. The amount of selenium in the plants and animals may vary depending on the quantity in the soil and the source of the feed. Non-fortified foods with the highest amounts of selenium include Brazil nuts, light tuna, beef and cod. Women should have 55 micrograms of selenium as part of their daily diet.
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet, Iron
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Micronutrients
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet, Vitamin A
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet, Selenium
- World Health Organization : Micronutrients
- lentils image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com
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