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Mining Your Body

Mining Your Body



Pumping iron
"Iron"-ing your diet
Sources of iron
Build better bones with calcium
Calcium connections
Vegetarians, take note


Your body is a gold mine of minerals—more than 60 different kinds. You need only a very small amount of most minerals, but each one plays a crucial role in how your body works. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the foods you eat to find out how much iron and calcium you are getting. Iron and calcium are two minerals every girl should get to know. back to top

Pumping iron
Iron is found in hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen from your lungs through your bloodstream to your cells. When your cells receive their oxygen delivery, they use it to create energy. If you don't get enough iron from the foods you eat, your body won't make enough hemoglobin. That means your cells won't get the oxygen they need, and you'll feel weak and tired, both mentally and physically. This iron deficiency is called anemia. back to top

"Iron"-ing your diet
If you've started getting your period, it's time to add iron to your diet. Your body loses some iron every month, when you have your period. That means your recommended dietary allowance for iron goes up to about 15 milligrams a day. That doesn't mean you have to run out and buy vitamins with iron. Most girls can get all the iron they need by making healthy food choices. If you are on a special diet that is low in iron or you are a vegetarian, you may need to take an iron supplement. Talk with your health professional before taking iron. Getting too much iron can be more dangerous than anemia. back to top

Sources of iron
Iron is found in both animal and plant products. But the iron in animal products is easier for your body to absorb. That makes foods like meats, fish, poultry, and eggs good sources of iron. Plant products like peas and dried beans, potatoes, and rice also provide much-needed iron. Although many food companies add iron to breads, pastas, and cereals, your body may not be able to absorb it well. The same is true for the iron found naturally in vegetables like spinach. Keep in mind that a lean, quarter-pound hamburger contains a little more than 2 milligrams of iron. A half-cup of baked beans contains 3 milligrams. And one tiny clam has a whopping 12 milligrams. That's almost all the iron your body needs in a day! back to top

Build better bones with calcium
Calcium is crucial because it helps build strong teeth and bones. It also helps your blood clot when you get a cut, helps your heart and other muscles work, and helps transmit the nerve messages that control what your body is doing. By stocking up on calcium now, you may avoid the brittle bones and old-lady hump caused by osteoporosis. The recommended dietary allowance for calcium for girls is 1,300 milligrams a day. That may sound like a lot, but it really isn't. This mineral is found in many foods you probably already eat. back to top

Calcium connections
Low-fat and fat-free dairy products like yogurt and part-skim mozzarella cheese are good sources of calcium. They provide just as much calcium as full-fat dairy products but have fewer calories and less saturated fat. There are many nondairy sources of calcium as well. Leafy green vegetables like collard greens and kale, canned salmon and sardines, tofu, and carrots all contain calcium. If you like orange juice, try the kind with calcium added. A cup of orange juice with added calcium provides nearly 300 milligrams. That's almost the same amount of calcium found in a cup of milk! back to top

Vegetarians, take note
If you're a vegan (a vegetarian who eats no animal products at all), talk with your health professional or a dietitian about whether you need an iron or calcium supplement. If you eat dairy foods and eggs along with a variety of vegetables and legumes (peas and dried beans), you are probably getting enough of both minerals from your diet. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the foods you eat to find out how much iron and calcium you are getting. back to top

 
 
 
Last Modified Date: 3/28/2001
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