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Are you getting the minerals you need?

Our bodies can’t make minerals; that’s why it’s important to supply yours with the minerals it needs to maintain proper fluid balance and ensure normal cell and muscle activity.

Women are especially vulnerable to the loss of certain minerals, particularly iron and calcium. Iron is needed for the production of healthy red blood cells. Lack of iron can lead to anemia, a condition characterized by fatigue, feeling cold and lowered immunity.

As women age, calcium intake becomes increasingly important to help preserve bone mass and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones that can lead to fractures. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that postmenopausal women consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day, which is equivalent to four glasses of milk. Before menopause, the recommended consumption of calcium is 1,000 mg per day.

Eating a wide variety of foods in moderation is the key to getting enough minerals. Experts recommend that you eat the following daily: at least four to five servings of fruits and three to five servings of vegetables, at least three servings of whole-grain breads and cereals, at least two to three servings of low-fat milk and dairy products, and two servings of lean meat or meat substitutes, such as beans or fish.

When to take a supplement

If you habitually avoid foods in a particular food group, or if you eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day, you might consider taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Choose one that supplies close to 100 percent of the RDA of all the minerals and vitamins, rather than one that supplies 300 percent of the RDA for one essential mineral and only 20 percent of another.

When choosing a supplement, remember that with minerals, more isn’t necessarily better. For example, too much iron can cause toxic build-ups in the liver, pancreas and heart. Before taking any supplement other than a standard multivitamin and mineral supplement, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian.