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Rock the Core 4!

Rock the Core 4!

Tara DelloIacono Thies, RD

Chief Nutrition Strategist at Clif Bar & Company makers of LUNA Bar and PAM Advisor.

Vitamins and minerals are the nutrients that help your body rock it day in and day out. For women ,especially those in their childbearing years, a good rule of thumb is to think of iron, calcium, folic acid, and vitamin D as the “Core 4” vitamins and minerals important to maintaining overall health. But which foods contain these essential nutrients? How do you know if you’re getting enough? And what are the symptoms to watch out for that might indicate you have an insufficient intake? Following is a little Vitamins and Minerals 101 to give you a better understanding of the ins and outs of balancing your daily eating plan with the right nutrient essentials.

Be an Iron Woman

Iron plays a crucial role in the makeup of red blood cells, as well as many of the enzymes the body uses to perform a host of important functions. Getting enough iron in your diet ensures that both you and your baby are getting enough oxygen. Females between the ages of 18 and 50 need 18 mg/day, while the amount for women above the age of 50 drops to 8 mg/day. A mildly low intake may go unnoticed for a while until the level drops enough to lead to symptoms like:

·         Weakness

·         Fatigue

·         Shortness of breath during exercise

·         Headache

·         Trouble concentrating

·         Irritability

·         Dizziness


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Great sources of iron include:

·         ½ cup of cooked spinach: 3.2 mg

·         3 ounces of lean grass-fed beef: 2.9 mg

·         ½ cup of soybeans: 4.4 mg


Fortify Your Strength with Calcium

Pregnancy puts demands on your calcium needs. You don’t need more calcium when you are pregnant, but it is much easier to become deficient because if you aren’t getting the 1,000 mg RDA of calcium a day, your body will take what it needs from your bones to provide for your baby. Consume three to four calcium-containing foods each day such as cottage cheese, chocolate milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice, and LUNA Bars.

Calcium is a primary contributor to bone growth and strength, but it also plays a strong role in blood clotting, muscle contraction (including your heart), and regulation of blood pressure, nerve signals, and hormones. Men and women between ages 18 and 70 need 1,000 mg/day. The physical signs of low calcium are not noticeable until the bones have become extremely depleted and are weak enough to fracture or break, so you don’t want to wait until it’s too late to make sure your calcium intake is on target. Many women have heard of osteoporosis, the condition caused by ongoing calcium depletion. The symptoms associated with it are:

·         Frequent falling

·         Back and neck pain

·         Bone pain/tenderness

·         Loss of height

·         Occurrence of fractures with little cause

·         Stooped posture


Great sources of calcium include:

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·         I cup of milk: 300 mg

·         1 cup of broccoli: 178 mg

·         3 ounces of salmon: 180 mg

Filling Up on Folic Acid

Folic acid, or folate, is central to the development of cells and essential proteins. It is especially important for women of childbearing age as it helps protect against neural tube birth defects. Both men and women above the age of 18 need 400 μg/day of folate. Folic acid deficiency can cause the following symptoms:

·         Tiredness

·         Lightheadedness

·         Forgetfulness

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·         Grouchiness

·         Loss of appetite

·         Weight loss

·         Trouble concentrating



Great sources of folate include:

·         1 cup of pinto beans: 294 μg

·         1 cup of boiled asparagus: 262 μg

·         1 cup of spinach: 262 μg


Soak Up Some Vitamin D

Vitamin D works in conjunction with calcium to promote bone and teeth health by aiding in the proper absorption of calcium. Some studies suggest vitamin D may play a role in reducing the risk of complications like gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and infection. Always check with your ob-gyn before taking any additional vitamins or supplements.

 Just look to the sky for the greatest source of vitamin D—it’s the sun! The best way to get your fill is to go outside and soak it up for 10 to 15 minutes before putting on sunscreen. Men and women between the ages of 18 and 70 need 600 IU/day. A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to the following:

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·         An increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as severe asthma in children

·         Bone pain and muscle weakness

·         Mental impairment in elders



Foods rich in vitamin D include:

·         I tablespoon of cod liver oil: 1,360 IU

·         3 ounces of cooked swordfish: 566 IU

·         1 cup of vitamin D–fortified milk: 115–124 IU

Here’s a quick cheat sheet:


Minimum for Pregnant and New Moms

Good sources

Calcium—necessary for formation of baby’s bones and keeps mom’s bones strong

1,000 mg per day

Dairy, tofu, beans, almonds, broccoli, kale, LUNA, LUNA Protein, LUNA Fiber

Folic Acid—promotes baby’s brain and spinal column development

400 mcg per day

Dark green leafy vegetables, beans, fortified orange juice, whole grains, LUNA, LUNA Protein, LUNA Fiber

Iron—helps promote weight gain in baby and support healthy blood cells in mom

27 mg per day

Lean red meat, eggs, enriched whole grains, beans/lentils, spinach, LUNA, LUNA Protein, LUNA Fiber

Vitamin D—important for the calcium balance of mom and baby; may reduce the risk of health problems for mom and baby later in life

200 IU per day

Salmon, tuna, sardines, dairy foods, LUNA, LUNA Protein, LUNA Fiber


Clif Bar & Company, LUNA Bar, nutrition and wellness, Pregnancy Awareness Month, Tara DelloIacono Thies

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