Iron is an important energy providing mineral that is required by every living cell in your body. Hemoglobin is its carrier in the red blood cells that transports it to every cell.
If you do not eat adequate quantities of Iron rich foods then you will get iron deficiency which is one of the most common nutritional deficiency globally.
Individual requirements of iron vary based on age and gender. Average DV is 18 milligrams. Menstruating and pregnant women need more Iron and they form almost 50% of all the people with iron deficiency.
What does Iron Do for the Body?
When you feel exhausted even if you are physically fit then it is most likely the iron deficiency is causing it.
Iron is really an important mineral that helps transport oxygen from blood to each body cell. Almost two thirds of your body’s Iron resides in haemoglobin which is the part of red blood cells responsible for oxygen transportation.
So, if you lose blood in an accident or in menstruation as women do, you lose hemoglobin and your body cells get less oxygen making you tired and fatigued.
On the other hand if your body doesn't produce enough red cells you will get the same symptoms of fatigue due to lack of iron.
Types of Iron in Different Foods
There are two different types of Iron found in food. Both types of iron essentially do the same job in the body but they differ in the way the body absorbs them.
- Heme Iron - Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin. It is found in animal foods. Red meat fish and poultry contain different heme Iron in different quantities. The biggest advantage of this kind of iron is that your body absorbs it easily.
- Nonheme Iron - Nonheme iron is generally found in plant based foods. Beans lentils, dried fruits like raisins, prunes, figs and apricots and vegetables like spinach are all good sources of nonheme iron. Most of nonheme iron comes from plant based foods but meats, fish and poultry also contain some.
What Helps Iron Absorption?
Our bodies do not absorb nonheme iron efficiently as compared to heme iron. At the same time nonheme iron content is less as compared to heme iron per gram of food intake.
This double disadvantage of nonheme iron can be partially overcome, if there is a mechanism to absorb more. Fortunately such a mechanism exists in the form of Vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C helps iron absorption, therefore you should consume iron rich plant based foods with vitamin C rich foods. Lots of vegetables like broccoli and fruits like citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C.
9 Best Iron Rich Foods
Following is a list of 9 foods that are high in Iron as well as other nutrients. Add some of them to your diet that suit your tastes and other requirements.If you are a vegetarian then you will have to add more variety of foods to consume for your Iron requirements. You may also need to take Iron supplements if required.
Clams, oysters and mussels and other varieties of shellfishes are one of the richest sources of heme iron that gets easily absorbed by the body.
Though their iron contents vary from their origin, the highest recorded iron content of shellfish clams is 28 miligrams which 154% DV.
Shell fishes are also rich in proteins and vitamin C. This is a double advantage as vitamin C helps iron absorption.
Liver is also one of the highest sources of heme iron. Hundred grams of organic beef liver contents about 18 milligrams of iron which is roughly 99% DV.
Liver contains other important nutrients such as folate and Vitamin B12. So if you are suffering from anaemia then liver is the best natural home remedy.
3. Red Meat
Red meat is certainly nutritious from the point of view of iron. Although it has a bad name due to high fat and cholesterol, it still remains favorite food for many.
100 gram of red meat contains 4 milligrams of iron which is 22% DV. If you go for red meat then take grass fed organic beef as your first choice.
Dark turkey meat is a very good source of Iron. 100 grams of dark turkey meat contains 2.3 milligrams of Iron meeting 12% of DV.
White Turkey meat on the other hand contains a little more than half of Iron content of dark turkey.
The protein rich turkey is also rich in vitamin B12, zinc and selenium.
Spirulina is one of the highest sources of iron in the vegetarian category. 100 grams of Spirulina contains 28 milligrams of iron which is roughly 158% DV.
Spirulina blue green algae is loaded with other nutrients too. It is also rich in proteins vitamin B Vitamin C vitamin D vitamin A and essential amino acids.
Lentils are legumes which are loaded with powerful nutrients. They are rich in proteins and iron and are the principal sources of proteins for vegetarians.
10 grams of lentil contains 3 milligrams of iron that is 18% DV.
If you are vegetarian then you should add lentils and other legumes and beans in your daily diet to not only meet your protein requirements but also get Iron.
7. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are tasty and nutritious snacks. Hundred grams of Pumpkin seeds contain 3 milligrams of iron which is 18% DV.
Pumpkin seeds are also a very good source of another mineral magnesium.
The 2 most common deficiency of minerals in people are iron and magnesium deficiency and pumpkin seeds address both of them. Magnesium deficiency causes insulin resistance and diabetes.
Pumpkin seeds also contain zinc manganese and Vitamin K.
This leafy green vegetable is loaded with nutrients including iron. Both raw and cooked spinach are one of the highest sources of iron for vegetarians.
1 cup cooked spinach contains 2.6 milligrams of iron that is roughly 15% of DV.
Broccoli is a very nutritious vegetable. It is very high in vitamin C content.
100 grams of broccoli meets 148%DV of vitamin C and just 3% of Iron.
So it does not really contain as much as iron as some other vegetables like spinach does. But it's high vitamin c contents help to absorb almost all iron.
That is why broccoli is a good source of iron.
Tips and Precautions
- Menstruating women lose blood therefore they require more iron
- Pregnant women required even more iron as they have to support two bodies
- Iron supplements are recommended when the iron requirement is high
- Iron does not get excreted unless you lose blood, therefore if the body does not absorb it will get stored in pockets like liver and other body cells.
- Supplements if not absorbed well can cause diarrhea, upset stomach, constipation, acid reflux, heartburn and nausea. Therefore iron supplements should taken only under medical supervision.
Foods can help you recover from iron and other mineral deficiency. Choose the foods that suit you as well as tackle multiple health problems simultaneously.