Strict vegetarians should consider increasing the amount of dark-colored vegetables in their diets in order to prevent deficiencies of vitamin A and iron, according to an Institute of Medicine report released last Tuesday that revised the recommended levels of vitamin A and several other nutrients.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel report states that vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and sweet potatoes, usually relied upon to provide vitamin A, only deliver to the body half the amount of usable nutrient as previously thought. Vitamin A deficiency is not usually a concern in developed countries because the vitamin is abundant in dairy products, fish and liver.
But people who avoid animal products altogether should be careful to get enough dark fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids, the compounds the body converts to vitamin A, to guarantee optimal vision and lower the risk of birth defects.
The new recommended intakes for vitamin A are 900 micrograms per day for men and 700 micrograms per day for women. Twelve micrograms of beta-carotene provides one microgram of vitamin A in the body. The RDA vitamin A can be met without taking supplements by choosing foods rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A. For example one half-cup of cooked carrots will give the full RDA.
The panel also revised the recommendations for daily iron intake to 8 milligrams (mg) per day for men and postmenopausal women and 18 mg per day for premenopausal women. Many pregnant women do not get all of the 27 mg of iron per day recommended to prevent iron deficiency anemia, and some of these women may need iron supplements, the report indicates. Vegetarians may have to double their daily intake of iron over the recommended numbers since the body absorbs iron found in cereals, bread, and vegetables less efficiently than it does iron found in meat and other animal foods.
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