Nutrition Guidelines
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Nutrition Guidelines

Your guide to adequate daily nutrient intakes for women, men, and children.

Recommended Nutrients

The best way to maintain good health, as well as the energy to get through your day, is to fuel your body with a variety of healthy foods. Almost all of your nutritional needs can be met by a healthy diet. According to the American Dietetic Association, your body needs at least 13 vitamins and 15 minerals to function.

 

What follows is a guide to recommended intakes for women, men, and children, according to the latest information from the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Vitamin A

What It Does: Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps you see normally in the dark and promotes the growth and health of all body cells and tissues. It also protects against infection by keeping healthy the skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory and uro-genital tract.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Night blindness and other eye problems; dry, scaly skin; problems with reproduction; poor growth.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Can lead to birth defects, headaches, vomiting, double vision, hair loss, bone abnormalities, and liver damage.

Food Sources: Liver, fish oil, eggs, milk fortified with vitamin A; red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables, many dark-green, leafy vegetables.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 700 mcg; pregnant, 770 mcg; breastfeeding, 1,300 mcg
  • Men: 900 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 300 mcg; ages 4-8, 400 mcg; ages 9-13, 600 mcg

Vitamin D

What It Does: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and helps deposit these minerals in bones and teeth to make them strong.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Greater risk of osteoporosis and osteomalacia (softening of the bones). Children can develop rickets or defective bone growth.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Can lead to kidney stones or kidney damage, weak muscles and bones, excessive bleeding, and other problems. Excessive amounts usually come from supplements, not from food or overexposure to sunlight.

Food Sources: Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine" vitamin, because your body can produce it after sunlight or ultraviolet light hits the skin. Food sources include cheese, eggs, some fish (salmon and sardines), fortified milk, breakfast cereals, and margarine.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 5 mcg; pregnant, 5 mcg; breastfeeding, 5 mcg; over age 50, 10 mcg; over age 70, 15 mcg
  • Men: 5 mcg; over age 50, 10 mcg; over age 70, 15 mcg
  • Children: all ages, 5 mcg

Vitamin E

What It Does: Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that some experts believe works as an antioxidant, protecting against illnesses such as heart disease and some types of cancer.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Deficiencies are very rare, as vitamin E is abundant in foods. Premature, very low birthweight babies and people who do not absorb fat normally may have deficiency issues that could lead to nervous system problems.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: May interfere with vitamin K action and enhance the effect of some anticoagulant drugs.

Food Sources: Vegetable oils and margarine; salad dressing and other foods made from vegetable oils; nuts; seeds; wheat germ; leafy-green vegetables.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 15 mg; pregnant, 15 mg; breastfeeding, 19 mg
  • Men: 15 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 6 mg; ages 4-8, 7 mg; ages 9-13, 11 mg; ages 14-18, 15 mg

Vitamin K

What It Does: Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps blood to clot and stops bleeding.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Thin blood that does not adequately coagulate.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: No symptoms have been observed from excessive intake of vitamin K.

Food Sources: Intestinal bacteria produce some of the vitamin K you need. The best food sources include green leafy vegetables such as kale, parsley, spinach, and broccoli. Smaller amounts are found in milk and other dairy products, meat, eggs, cereal, fruits, and other vegetables.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 90 mcg; pregnant, 90 mcg; breastfeeding, 90 mcg
  • Men: 120 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 30 mcg; ages 4-8, 55 mcg; ages 9-13, 60 mcg; ages 14-18, 75 mcg

Vitamin C

What It Does: Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb iron out of food made from plant sources. It helps produce the connective tissue collagen; contributes to the formation and repair of red blood cells, bones, and other tissues; helps keep capillary walls and blood vessels firm; protects against bruising; helps maintain healthy gums and heal cuts and wounds; helps protect against infection by keeping the immune system healthy.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Scurvy, a disease that causes tooth loss, excessive bleeding, swollen gums, and improper wound healing. Scurvy is rare in the United States.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Excess Vitamin C intake may cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal discomfort. Use of supplements can also interfere with tests for blood sugar level.

Food Sources: Citrus fruits and many other fruits and vegetables, including berries, melons, peppers, many dark-green leafy vegetables, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 75 mg; pregnant, 85 mg; breastfeeding, 120 mg
  • Men: 90 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 15 mg; ages 4-8, 25 mg; ages 9-13, 45 mg; ages 14-18, 75 mg

Thiamin

What It Does: Thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, is a water-soluble vitamin that helps all body cells produce energy from carbohydrates.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Alcoholics are frequently low in thiamin and suffer fatigue, weak muscles, and nerve damage as a result.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Excessive intake of thiamin is expelled in the urine.

Food Sources: Whole-grain and enriched grain products, such as bread, rice, pasta, tortillas, fortified breakfast cereals, pork, liver, and other organ meats.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 1.1 mg; pregnant, 1.4 mg; breastfeeding, 1.4 mg
  • Men: 1.2 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 0.5 mg; ages 4-8, 0.6 mg; ages 9-13, 0.9 mg; ages 14-18, 1.0 mg (girls) and 1.2 mg (boys)

Riboflavin

What It Does: Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is a water-soluble vitamin that helps all body cells produce energy and change the amino acid tryptophan into niacin (another B vitamin).

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Severely malnourished people may develop eye disorders, such as cataracts, dry and flaky skin, and a red, sore tongue.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: No problems have been linked to excessive riboflavin intake.

Food Sources: Milk and other dairy products; enriched bread; cereal; and other grain products; green leafy vegetables; nuts; eggs; and meats.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 1.1 mg; pregnant, 1.4 mg; breastfeeding, 1.6 mg
  • Men: 1.3 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 0.5 mg; ages 4-8, 0.6 mg; ages 9-13, 0.9 mg; ages 14-18, 1.0 mg (girls) and 1.3 mg (boys)

Niacin

What It Does: Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body use sugars and fatty acids, and helps all body cells produce energy. It also helps enzymes function in the body.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Symptoms include diarrhea, mental disorientation, and skin problems.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Excessive intake of one form of niacin called nicotinic acid may cause flushed skin, liver damage, stomach ulcers, and high blood sugar. This type of excessive intake is only likely to occur with supplements.

Food Sources: Some niacin is produced in the body. Foods high in protein, such as poultry, fish, beef, peanut butter, and legumes, are also good sources.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 14 mg; pregnant, 18 mg; breastfeeding, 17 mg
  • Men: 16 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 6 mg; ages 4-8, 8 mg; ages 9-13, 12 mg; ages 14-18, 14 mg (girls) and 16 mg (boys)

Vitamin B6

What It Does: Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps the body make proteins, which are then used to make body cells. It also helps convert the amino acid tryptophan into niacin and serotonin. Vitamin B6 also helps produce other body chemicals such as insulin, hemoglobin, and antibodies to fight infection.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Depression, nausea, mental convulsions in infants, and greasy, flaky skin.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Can cause nerve damage.

Food Sources: Chicken, fish, pork, liver, kidney, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 1.3 mg; pregnant, 1.9 mg; breastfeeding, 2.0 mg; over age 50, 1.5 mg
  • Men: 1.3 mg; over age 50, 1.7 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 0.5 mg; ages 4-8, 0.6 mg; ages 9-13, 1.0 mg; ages 14-18, 1.2 mg (girls) and 1.3 mg (boys)

Folate

What It Does: Folate, also known as folic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in fetal development, producing DNA and RNA to make new body cells. It also works with vitamin B12 to form hemoglobin in red blood cells.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Impaired cell division and growth, a type of anemia, and, during the first trimester of pregnancy, increased risk of delivering a baby with neural-tube defects such as spina bifida.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Too much folate intake may interfere with medications and cause convulsions in people with epilepsy. It can also mask vitamin B12 deficiencies, leading to permanent nerve damage if not caught in time.

Food Sources: Leafy vegetables, orange juice, and some fruits; legumes; liver; yeast breads; wheat germ; and some fortified cereals.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 400 mcg; pregnant, 600 mcg; breastfeeding, 500 mcg
  • Men: 400 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 150 mcg; ages 4-8, 200 mcg; ages 9-13, 300 mcg; ages 14-18, 400 mcg

Vitamin B12

What It Does: Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that works with folate to make red blood cells. It also serves in body cells as a vital part of many body chemicals and helps the body use fatty acids and some amino acids.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Anemia, fatigue, nerve damage, a smooth tongue, very sensitive skin. Vitamin B12 deficiencies may be hidden when extra folate is taken to treat or prevent anemia. Strict vegetarians who eat no animal products are the most likely to develop vitamin B12 deficiencies, as are their infants. People who do not absorb vitamin B12 may also have this deficiency.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: No problems are associated with excessive intake of vitamin B12.

Food Sources: Animal products and some fortified foods.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 2.4 mcg; pregnant, 2.6 mcg; breastfeeding, 2.8 mcg
  • Men: 2.4 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 0.9 mcg; ages 4-8, 1.2 mcg; ages 9-13, 1.8 mcg; ages 14-18, 2.4 mcg

Biotin

What It Does: Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps all body cells produce energy. It also helps metabolize protein, fat, and carbohydrates in food.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Heart abnormalities, appetite loss, fatigue, depression, and dry skin.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: No problems have been linked to excessive intake of biotin.

Food Sources: Eggs, liver, yeast breads, and cereals.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 30 mcg; pregnant, 30 mcg; breastfeeding, 35 mcg
  • Men: 30 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 8 mcg; ages 4-8, 12 mcg; ages 9-13, 20 mcg; ages 14-18, 25 mcg

Pantothenic Acid

What It Does: Pantothenic acid is a water-soluble vitamin that helps all body cells produce energy. It also helps metabolize protein, fat, and carbohydrates in food.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Deficiency is rare in healthy people who eat a balanced diet.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: May cause occasional diarrhea and water retention.

Food Sources: Meat, poultry, fish, whole-grain cereals, and legumes are among the best sources. Milk, vegetables, and fruits also contain some.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 5 mg; pregnant, 6 mg; breastfeeding, 7 mg
  • Men: 5 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 2 mg; ages 4-8, 3 mg; ages 9-13, 4 mg; ages 14-18, 5 mg

Calcium

What It Does: Calcium builds bones, both in length and strength, and helps slow the rate of bone loss as you age. It helps muscles contract, plays a role in normal nerve function, and helps blood coagulate when you are bleeding.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Affects bone density and increases the risk of osteoporosis.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Too much calcium over a prolonged period can cause constipation, kidney stones, and poor kidney function. It may also interfere with the absorption of other minerals, such as iron and zinc. Excess amounts are consumed only with use of supplements.

Food Sources: Milk and milk products, some dark-green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, bok choy), fish with edible bones (such as sardines), and tofu made with calcium sulfate. Many foods (some brands of orange juice, bread, and soy milk) are fortified with calcium.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 1,000 mg; pregnant, 1,000 mg; breastfeeding, 1,000 mg; over age 50, 1,200 mg
  • Men: 1,000 mg; over age 50, 1,200 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 500 mg; ages 4-8, 800 mg; ages 9-18, 1,300 mg

Magnesium

What It Does: Magnesium is an important part of more than 300 enzymes that regulate many body functions, including energy production and muscle contractions. It also helps maintain nerve and muscle cells and is a component of bones.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: When the body cannot properly absorb magnesium, irregular heartbeat, nausea, weakness, and mental derangement may occur.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Too much magnesium can cause nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and heart problems. Excess amounts from food are unlikely to cause harm unless kidney disease prevents magnesium from being excreted.

Food Sources: Magnesium is found in all foods in varying amounts. Legumes, nuts, whole grains, and green vegetables are good sources.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 320 mg; pregnant, 700 mg; breastfeeding, 700 mg, under age 30, 310 mg
  • Men: 420 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 80 mg; ages 4-8, 130 mg; ages 9-13, 240 mg; ages 14-18, 410 mg (boys) and 360 mg (girls)

Phosphorus

What It Does: Phosphorus helps body cells produce energy and acts as a main regulator of energy metabolism in body organs. It is a major component of bones and teeth, and makes up part of DNA and RNA.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Rare, except for small premature babies who consume only breast milk, or for people taking antacids for long periods, if the main ingredient of the antacids is aluminum hydroxide. Symptoms include bone loss, weakness, loss of appetite, and pain.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Too much phosphorus may lower calcium levels in the blood and increase bone loss if calcium intake is low.

Food Sources: Protein-rich foods are the best sources. Legumes and nuts rank next. Bread and baked goods also contain phosphorus.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 700 mg; pregnant, 700 mg; breastfeeding, 700 mg
  • Men: 700 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 460 mg; ages 4-8, 500 mg; ages 9-18, 1,250 mg

Chromium

What It Does: Chromium works with insulin to help the body use glucose (blood sugar).

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Symptoms may resemble those of diabetes, including impaired glucose tolerance and nerve damage.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: The effects of too much chromium are currently unknown. There are studies under way at several universities.

Food Sources: Good sources include meat, whole grains, and nuts.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 25 mcg; pregnant, 30 mcg; breastfeeding, 45 mcg; over age 50, 20 mcg
  • Men: 35 mcg; over age 50, 30 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 11 mcg; ages 4-8, 15 mcg; ages 9-13, 25 mcg (boys) and 21 mcg (girls); ages 14-18, 35 mcg (boys) and 24 mcg (girls)

Copper

What It Does: Copper helps make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. Copper is also an ingredient in many body enzymes and helps all body cells produce energy.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Rare, except from genetic problems or consuming too much zinc, which can hinder copper absorption.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Overdosing could lead to coma and liver damage.

Food Sources: Organ meats, especially liver; seafood; nuts; and seeds. Cooking in copper pots also increases copper content of foods.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 900 mcg; pregnant, 1,000 mcg; breastfeeding, 1,300 mcg
  • Men: 900 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 340 mcg; ages 4-8, 440 mcg; ages 9-13, 700 mcg; ages 14-18, 890 mcg

Fluoride

What It Does: Fluoride helps harden tooth enamel, protecting teeth from decay. It may also protect against osteoporosis by strengthening bones.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Weak tooth enamel.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: An excess can mottle or stain otherwise healthy teeth. It can also lead to brittle bones, increasing the frequency of bone fractures.

Food Sources: Tea (especially if made with fluoridated water) and fish with edible bones, such as canned salmon. Many communities add fluoride to the water supply, and fluoride supplements may be used with a doctor's supervision. Some types of cooking materials, such as a non-stick coating, can increase the fluoride content of foods.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 3 mg; pregnant, 3 mg; breastfeeding, 3 mg
  • Men: 4 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 0.7 mg; ages 4-8, 1 mg; ages 9-13, 2 mg; ages 14-18, 3 mg

Iodine

What It Does: Iodine is an ingredient in thyroxin (thyroid hormone), which regulates the body's rate of energy use.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Interferes with thyroxin production, slowing the rate at which the body burns energy. Symptoms include weight gain and goiter (enlarged thyroid gland). Use of iodized salt has virtually eliminated iodine deficiency as a cause of goiter in the United States.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Too much iodine may also cause goiter, but not at levels usually consumed in the United States.

Food Sources: Found naturally in saltwater fish and foods grown near coastal areas. Iodine is added to salt.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 150 mcg; pregnant, 220 mcg; breastfeeding, 290 mcg
  • Men: 150 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-8, 90 mcg; ages 9-13, 120 mcg; ages 14-18, 150 mcg

Iron

What It Does: Iron is an essential ingredient in hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to body cells.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Anemia, fatigue, and infections. Deficiencies are more common among women with regular menstrual periods.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Iron supplements should not be taken by men, post-menopausal women, or people with a genetic problem called hemochromatosis. Adult iron supplements can be harmful to children. If a child accidentally takes adult iron supplements, seek immediate medical attention.

Food Sources: Some iron from animal sources is better absorbed than plant sources. Sources include meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, nuts and seeds, breads, cereals, and other grain products.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 18 mg; pregnant, 27 mg; breastfeeding, 9 mg; over age 50, 8 mg
  • Men: 8 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 7 mg; ages 4-8, 10 mg; ages 9-13, 8 mg; ages 14-18, 11 mg (boys) and 15 mg (girls)

Manganese

What It Does: Manganese is part of many body enzymes.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Rare.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Consuming harmful levels of manganese from food is very rare.

Food Sources: Whole grain products, tea, and some fruits and vegetables, such as pineapple, kale, and strawberries.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 1.8 mg; pregnant, 2.0 mg; breastfeeding, 2.6 mg
  • Men: 2.3 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 1.2 mg; ages 4-8, 1.5 mg; ages 9-13, 1.9 mg (boys) and 1.6 mg (girls); ages 14-18, 2.2 mg (boys) and 1.6 mg (girls)

Molybdenum

What It Does: Molybdenum works with riboflavin to incorporate iron into hemoglobin for red blood cells. It is also part of many body enzymes.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Rare with a normal diet.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Consuming harmful levels of molybdenum from food is very rare.

Food Sources: Milk, legumes, breads, and grain products.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 45 mcg; pregnant, 50 mcg; breastfeeding, 50 mcg
  • Men: 45 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 17 mcg; ages 4-8, 22 mcg; ages 9-13, 34 mcg; ages 14-18, 43 mcg

Selenium

What It Does: Selenium works as an antioxidant with vitamin E to protect body cells from damage that may lead to cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. It also aids cell growth.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: May affect the heart.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Consuming harmful levels of selenium from food is very rare.

Food Sources: Seafood, liver, kidney, and other meats. Grain products and seeds also contain selenium, but the amount depends on the type of soil in which they were grown.

Recommended Daily Intake in Micrograms:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 55 mcg; pregnant, 60 mcg; breastfeeding, 70 mcg
  • Men: 55 mcg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 20 mcg; 4-8, 30 mcg; ages 9-13, 40 mcg; ages 14-18, 55 mcg

Zinc

What It Does: Zinc is essential for growth. It promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth, repair, and wound healing. It forms part of more than 70 body enzymes and helps the body use carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Birth defects and retarded growth during childhood. Appetite loss, decreased sense of taste and smell, skin changes, and reduced resistance to infection are also symptoms.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: It would be difficult to take in too much zinc. Excess zinc intake comes from supplements and can cause gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, and reduced HDL ("good") cholesterol levels; it can interfere with copper absorption and immune function.

Food Sources: Meat, liver, and seafood are the best sources. Whole-grain products, wheat bran, legumes, and soybeans are good sources.

Recommended Daily Intake in Milligrams:

  • Women: non-pregnant, 8 mg; pregnant, 11 mg; breastfeeding, 12 mg
  • Men: 11 mg
  • Children: ages 1-3, 3 mg; ages 4-8, 5 mg; ages 9-13, 8 mg; ages 14-18, 11 mg (boys) and 9 mg (girls)

Chloride

What It Does: Chloride helps regulate fluids in and out of body cells. It forms part of stomach acid to help digest food and absorb nutrients. It also helps transmit nerve impulses.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Rare, as chloride is found in table salt. Heavy, persistent sweating; chronic diarrhea or vomiting; trauma or kidney disease may cause deficiencies.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Excess chloride may be linked to high blood pressure in chloride-sensitive people, but more study is needed.

Food Sources: The best source is table salt.

Potassium

What It Does: Potassium helps regulate fluids and mineral balance in and out of body cells. It also helps maintain normal blood pressure, transmit nerve impulses, and contract muscles.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, laxative use, and kidney problems can result in deficiencies of potassium. Symptoms include weakness, appetite loss, nausea, and fatigue. Supplements may be necessary for people taking high blood pressure medication -- check with your doctor.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Excess potassium is usually excreted; if this doesn't happen, as in people with some types of kidney disease, heart problems can occur.

Food Sources: Fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, poultry and fish. Particularly good sources include apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, oranges, prunes, strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, and dried fruits.

Sodium

What It Does: Sodium helps regulate movement of fluids in and out of body cells. It also helps transmit nerve impulses, regulate blood pressure, and relax muscles.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough: Unlikely, except with chronic diarrhea, vomiting, or kidney problems. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, and muscle cramps.

What Happens When You Get Too Much: Healthy people excrete excess sodium, but some kidney diseases interfere with sodium excretion, leading to fluid retention and swelling. Sodium-sensitive people may experience high blood pressure if they consume a daily diet that contains high levels of sodium.

Food Sources: Processed foods account for about 75 percent of the sodium we eat. Another 25 percent comes from table salt. Only a small amount occurs naturally in food.

Morgan Bailey, whose features have appeared on Family.com, Parenting.com, and ModernBride.com, is a freelance writer living in New York City.

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