What it does:

  • Helps your body make hemoglobin, needed to carry oxygen in red blood cells.
  • Serves as a part of many body enzymes.
  • Helps your body develop connective tissue, myelin, and melanin.
  • Helps your body produce energy in the cells.

If you don't get enough: A deficiency rarely comes from a lack of copper, but instead from genetic problems. Another cause: excess zinc from supplement sources can hinder copper absorption.

If you consume excess amounts: Harmful effects of copper from dietary sources are extremely rare in the United States. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is 8,000 micrograms daily for teens ages fourteen to eighteen, and 10,000 micrograms daily for adults.

How much you need: The RDA for copper is set at 890 micrograms per day for teens ages fourteen to eighteen, and 900 micrograms daily for adults. During pregnancy the level is 1,000 micrograms daily; during breast-feeding it's 1,300 micrograms daily.

Where it's mostly found: Organ meats, especially liver; seafood; nuts; and seeds are the best sources. Cooking in copper pots increases the copper in food.

Food Copper (mcg)

Beef liver, braised (3 oz.) 12,140

Clams, cooked (3 oz.) 590 Sunflower seeds, dry roasted (1 oz.) 520

Peanuts, dry roasted (1 oz.) 190

Mushrooms, canned (V2 cup) 180

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