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The following pages discuss how important calcium, vitamin D, iron, folate, iodine, phytoestrogen and omega-3 are to your bones, immune system, cell growth and our mental health.

You will find information on the recommended daily intake of these nutrients for women at different ages and how best to include these nutrients in your diet.

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How important is calcium to our bones? You will also find information on the changes that happen to bones as women age, the recommended daily calcium intake for women at different ages, the calcium content of different foods and types of calcium supplements.

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Vitamin D

Vitamin D has many important roles in the body including helping with calcium absorption, cell growth and maintaining a healthy immune system to fight disease and illness. Find out about these important roles as well as vitamin D deficiency, how to test for vitamin D deficiency and where to get vitamin D.

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Iron is involved in various functions in the body. An important function is its role in the transport of oxygen in the blood as it is part of haemoglobin. Iron also helps the immune system function properly and is part of many enzymes found in the body. Low levels of iron can make you feel fatigued or tired and give you lowered immunity.

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Folate is a B vitamin (also called folic acid) needed for healthy growing, in particular for the nervous system.

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Iodine is a chemical element or mineral. The body does not make iodine, but the thyroid gland needs iodine to make hormones. You get most of your iodine from food.

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Phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) are substances that occur naturally in plants. They have a similar chemical structure to our own body's oestrogen (one of the main female hormones), and are able to bind to the same receptors that our own oestrogen does. They do, however, behave differently to female oestrogen and this depends on the oestrogen's environment (eg, whether a woman is in her reproductive years and has higher oestrogen, or is postmenopausal with lower oestrogen), how they bind to the oestrogen receptor and particularly to which oestrogen receptor they bind to.

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Omega-3 fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat.

Omega-3 plays a vital role in many aspects of health, including brain function, growth and development. Apart from lowering heart disease risk, research suggests omega-3 may help reduce inflammation and support the immune system, reduce blood pressure and play a role in preventing and treating depression.

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Last updated: 16 January 2020

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