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Dietary reference intakes for women: Vitamins
Vitamin
Function / effects
Daily dose (RDA/AI)+
Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)+
Some food sources
Vitamin A (Retinoids — retinol, retinoic acid — are active forms. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body.) Required for vision, tissue and skin health, and immune function. Beta carotene and other carotenoids available in fruits and vegetables may help lower cataract and lung cancer risk. RDA: 700 mcg (2,333 IU), age 19 and over; 770 mcg (2,566 IU) during pregnancy; 1,300 mcg (4,333 IU) during lactation. 3,000 mcg/day (10,000 IU) Retinoids: beef, liver, eggs, shrimp, fish, fortified milk, and some cheeses. Beta carotene: sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, spinach, mangoes, and turnip greens.
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) Helps convert food into energy; needed for healthy skin, hair, muscles, and brain. RDA: 1.1 mg, age 19 and over; 1.4 mg during pregnancy and lactation. Enriched, fortified, or whole-grain products; breads; grains; cereals; pork; organ meats; legumes; nuts; and seeds.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) Helps convert food into energy; regulates hormones; needed for healthy skin, hair, blood, and brain. RDA: 1.1 mg, age 19 and over; 1.4 mg during pregnancy; 1.6 mg during lactation. Organ meats, milk products, and whole grains and fortified foods.
Vitamin B3 (niacin, nicotinic acid) Helps convert food into energy; helps maintain skin, blood cells, brain, and nervous system. RDA: 14 mg, age 19 and over; 18 mg during pregnancy; 17 mg during lactation. 35 mg/day * Meat, fish, poultry, enriched and whole gains, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) Helps convert food into energy; aids in production of lipids, neuro-transmitters, and hemoglobin. AI: 5 mg, age 19 and over; 6 mg during pregnancy; 7 mg during lactation. Many foods, including chicken, beef, oats, cereals, tomato products, liver, kidney, yeast, egg yolks, broccoli, and whole grains.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxal, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine) Helps convert food into energy; aids in production of lipids, neuro-transmitters, and hemoglobin. AI: 5 mg, age 19 and over; 6 mg during pregnancy; 7 mg during lactation. Many foods, including chicken, beef, oats, cereals, tomato products, liver, kidney, yeast, egg yolks, broccoli, and whole grains.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) Aids in making new cells; protects nerve cells; prevents pernicious anemia; helps lower homocysteine levels. RDA: 2.4 mcg, age 19 and over; 2.6 mcg during pregnancy; 2.8 mcg during lactation. Fortified cereals, meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs.
Biotin Helps to convert food into energy, break down fats, and keep bones and hair healthy. AI: 30 mcg, age 19 and over and during pregnancy; 35 mcg during lactation. † Organ meats, whole grains, egg yolks, soybeans, and fish.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) An antioxidant that protects cells, promotes iron absorption, and aids in neuro-transmitter and collagen production. RDA: 75 mg, age 19 and over; 85 mg during pregnancy; 120 mg during lactation. (Smokers need an additional 35 mg/day.) 2,000 mg/day Citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and spinach.
Choline Aids in brain and nerve activities; helps metabolize and transport fats. AI: 425 mg, age 19 and over; 450 mg during pregnancy; 550 mg during lactation. 3,500 mg/day Liver, milk, eggs, and peanuts.
Vitamin D (calciferol) Helps regulate calcium and phosphorus concentrations in the blood; helps form teeth and bones. AI: 5 mcg, age 19–50, during pregnancy, and during lactation; 10 mcg, age 51–70; 15 mcg, age 71 and over. 50 mcg (2,000 IU) Fatty fish, fish liver oils, fortified cereals, and fortified milk or margarine.
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) An antioxidant that protects cells. RDA: 15 mg (22 IU from natural sources; 33 IU from synthetic sources of vitamin E), age 19 and over and during pregnancy; 19 mg during lactation. 1,000 mg/day (1,500 IU from natural vitamin E; 2,200 IU from synthetic) Vegetable oils, whole grains, nuts, fruits, wheat germ, and leafy green vegetables.
Folic acid (folate, folacin) Required for new cell creation; helps prevent brain and spine defects in the fetus; helps lower homocysteine levels; offsets breast cancer risk in women who consume alcohol. RDA: 400 mcg, age 19 and over; 600 mcg during pregnancy; 500 mcg during lactation. 1,000 mcg * Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, spinach, turnip greens, orange juice, tomato juice, black-eyed peas, and chickpeas.
Vitamin K (phylloquinone, menadione) Aids in blood clotting and bone metabolism. AI: 90 mcg, age 19 and over, and during pregnancy and lactation. Deep green vegetables, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, milk, eggs, and margarine.
+ Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), Adequate Intake (AI), and Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) are designations and intake levels developed by the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board.
† Not determined due to lack of data. Source should be food only, to prevent high levels of intake.
* Applies only to synthetic forms obtained from supplements and/or fortified foods.
Sources: Adapted from Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins, available as a PDF at
www.iom.edu/iom/iomhome.nsf/pages/Fnb+Dri?OpenDocument and The Benefits and Risks of Vitamins and Minerals: A Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publications, 2003.