The 6 Nutrients You Need Most
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The 6 Nutrients You Need Most

Many women may be missing out on key vitamins and minerals, says Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. To get what you need, fill your plate with these crucial nutrients and take a multivitamin daily for added protection.

Vitamin B6

Key benefits

  • Regulates sleep, appetite, and mood
  • Helps your nervous system function properly

Best foods

  • 1 baked sweet potato (0.33mg)
  • 1 banana (0.43mg)
  • 3.5 ounces (the size of a deck of cards) cooked, skinless chicken breast (0.6mg)

Daily intake: 1.3mg

Vitamin B12

Key benefits

  • Improves alertness and fights fatigue
  • Produces hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells

Best foods

  • 8 ounces plain low-fat yogurt (1.4mcg)
  • 1 large hard-boiled egg (0.56mcg)
  • 3.5 ounces cooked sirloin (1.7mcg)

Daily intake: 2.4mcg


Key benefits

  • Especially crucial in the first few weeks of pregnancy to prevent brain and spinal defects
  • Helps lower your risk of colon and breast cancers

Best foods

  • 1/2 cup cooked asparagus (134mcg)
  • 1 cup raw spinach (58mcg)
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils (179mcg)

Daily intake: 400mcg

Vitamin D3

Key benefits

  • Strengthens your bones, teeth, and muscles
  • May protect against autoimmune diseases and breast and ovarian cancer

Best foods

  • 1 large egg yolk (18IU)
  • 1 ounce canned sardines (77IU)
  • 1 teaspoon cod-liver oil (453IU)

Daily intake: 400-800IU (the RDA is 200IU, but will soon be increasing)

TIP: Ask your MD for a 25-OH vitamin D blood test to make sure you're not deficient.


Key benefits

  • Reduces symptoms of PMS
  • May help maintain blood pressure

Best foods

  • 1 cup skim milk (316mg)
  • 1 ounce almonds (70mg)
  • 1/2 cup tofu (434mg)

Daily intake: 1,000mg


Key benefits

  • Crucial for proper brain function
  • Boosts energy levels and prevents anemia by helping to produce red blood cells

Best foods

  • 3 ounces cooked lean steak (2.7mg)
  • 3 ounces shrimp (2.6mg)
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (1.6mg)

Daily intake: 18mg

TIP: Iron is harder to absorb from plant sources. Vegetarians should aim for 34mg if they don't take a multivitamin.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2007.