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Iron

Why it's so important: Without enough iron, bone marrow can't produce enough red blood cells and you can develop anemia, which leaves you weak, short of breath, irritable and prone to infection. Slow to develop, this disorder often goes undiagnosed.
Recommended daily amount for women: 15 mg
How much the typical woman gets: 11 mg
Tips for boosting your intake: Iron from meat is absorbed more readily than iron from plant sources like beans, peas and nuts. To increase your absorption of plant-based iron, consume vitamin-C-rich foods and beverages: Drink orange juice with breakfast cereal or put extra tomatoes on your bean burrito. If you're diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor will likely recommend a supplement.

Fiber

Why it's so important: A high-fiber diet reduces heart-disease risk and can help control your weight by making you feel fuller.
Recommended daily amount for women: 25-35 mg
How much the typical woman gets: 11 mg
Tips for boosting your intake: The less processed a food, the greater its fiber content. So eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for "whole wheat" on bread labels and compare the fiber contents. Some brands contain up to 5 grams per slice.

Calcium

Why it's so important: Adequate calcium is vital to prevent osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease that leads to 1.5 million fractures a year. (Weight-bearing exercise and vitamin D are also key.) Women start to lose bone mass in their 30s, so calcium is particularly important for women in peak bone-building years.
Recommended daily amount for pre-menopausal women: 1,200 mg
How much the typical woman gets: 640 mg
Tips for boosting your intake: Consume nonfat dairy products, and drink calcium-fortified orange juice (it has as much calcium as a glass of milk). Supplement with calcium pills or chews.

Protein

Why it's so important: Protein-rich foods provide the amino acids needed to build and repair muscles. A protein/carb combo will keep you satisfied longer than a carb snack alone.
Recommended daily amount for women: The government's Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is about 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For a 140-pound woman, that's about 56 grams. But experts agree that exercisers need more. Active women may need as much as 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of body weight, or about 70-100 grams of protein per day.
How much the typical woman gets: 66 g
Tips for boosting your intake: Buy extra-lean cuts of meat and nonfat dairy products to limit saturated fat. Other good sources: soybean products, like soy protein and tofu.

Folic acid

Why it's so important: Folic acid, a B vitamin, can drastically reduce the risk of giving birth to a baby with brain and spinal-cord defects. Such defects often begin developing in the first month of pregnancy, before most women know they're pregnant. You need plenty of folic acid in your body before you conceive.
Recommended daily amount for women: 400 mcg
How much the typical woman gets: 186 mcg
Tips for boosting your intake: Good folic-acid sources include dark-green leafy vegetables, orange juice and wheat germ; many grain products are now fortified with it. Folic acid is destroyed by heat, prolonged storage and reheating of leftovers. To be safe, you may want to take a supplement.

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