Complete information on sources of iron

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1. Shellfish like shrimp, clams, mussels, and oysters

2. Lean meats (especially beef), liver and other organ meats

3. Ready-to-eat cereals with added iron

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4. Turkey dark meat (remove skin to reduce fat)

5. Sardines

6. Spinach

7. Cooked dry beans (such as kidney beans and pinto beans), peas (such as black-eyed peas), and lentils

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8. Enriched and whole grain breads

The ingredient list tells you what’s in the food, including any nutrients, fats, or sugars that have been added. The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.

Use the Nutrition Facts to see if a food is a good source of a nutrient or to compare similar foods-for example, to find which brand of frozen dinner is lower in saturated fat, or which kind of breakfast cereal contains more folic acid. Look at the % Daily Value (%DV) column to see whether a food is high or low in nutrients. If you want to limit a nutrient (such as fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium), try to choose foods with a lower %DV. If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as calcium, other vitamins and minerals, fiber), try to choose foods with a higher %DV. As a guide, foods with 5%DV or less contribute a small amount of that nutrient to your eating pattern, while those with 20% or more contribute a large amount. Remember, Nutrition Facts serving sizes may differ from those used in the Food Guide Pyramid (see INDEX 8). For example, 2 ounces of dry macaroni yields about 1 cup cooked, or two (1/2 cup) Pyramid servings.

Use of dietary supplements

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Some people need a vitamin-mineral supplement to meet specific nutrient needs. For example, women who could become pregnant are advised to eat foods fortified with folic acid or to take a folic acid supplement in addition to consuming folate-rich foods to reduce the risk of some serious birth defects. Older adults and people with little exposure to sunlight may need a vitamin D supplement. People who seldom eat dairy products or other rich sources of calcium need a calcium supplement, and people who eat no animal foods need to take a vitamin B12 supplement. Sometimes vitamins or minerals are prescribed for meeting nutrient needs or for therapeutic purposes. For example, health care providers may advise pregnant women to take an iron supplement, and adults over age 50 to get their vitamin B12 from a supplement or from fortified foods.

Supplements of some nutrients, such as vitamin A and selenium, can be harmful if taken in large amounts. Because foods contain many substances that promote health, use the Food Guide Pyramid when choosing foods.

Don’t depend on supplements to meet your usual nutrient needs.

Dietary supplements include not only vitamins and minerals, but also amino acids, fiber, herbal products, and many other substances that are widely available. Herbal products usually provide a very small amount of vitamins and minerals. The value of herbal products for health is currently being studied. Standards for their purity, potency, and composition are being developed.

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Build a healthy base: Use the Food Guide Pyramid to help make healthy food choices that you can enjoy.

Build your eating pattern on a variety of plant foods, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Also choose some low-fat dairy products and low-fat foods from the meat and beans group each day.

It’s fine to enjoy fats and sweets occasionally.

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Choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains

Foods made from grains (wheat, rice, and oats) help form the foundation of a nutritious diet. They provide vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates (starch and dietary fiber), and other substances that are important for good health. Grain products are low in fat, unless fat is added in processing, in preparation, or at the table. Whole grains differ from refined grains in the amount of fiber and nutrients they provide, and different whole grain foods differ in nutrient content, so choose a variety of whole and enriched grains. Eating plenty of whole grains, such as whole wheat bread or oatmeal (see INDEX 11), as part of the healthful eating patterns described by these guidelines, may help protect you against many chronic diseases. Aim for at least 6 servings of grain products per day-more if you are an older child or teenager, an adult man, or an active woman and include several servings of whole grain foods. See INDEX 8 for serving sizes.

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