According to the National Institutes of Health, foods that are high in iron include red meat, poultry, seafood, beans, lentils, spinach, and iron-fortified foods.
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Iron is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in many body functions, including the transport of oxygen in the blood, the formation of red blood cells, and the metabolism of energy. While we need iron for good health, it’s important to not overdo it, as too much iron can be toxic. The best way to get the right amount of iron is through diet by eating foods that are naturally high in iron or by consuming foods that have been fortified with iron. Here are some examples of foods that are high in iron.
What is Iron?
Iron is a mineral found in food that our bodies need for many different functions. For example, iron helps to carry oxygen in the blood. It also helps muscles store and use oxygen. Our bodies need iron to make hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells.
Hemoglobin gives blood its red color and enables red blood cells to carry oxygen from our lungs to all the tissues in our body. Myoglobin, another protein that contains iron, helps supply oxygen to our muscles so they can work properly.
Iron is essential for good health, but unfortunately, it’s a nutrient that many people don’t get enough of. According to the National Institutes of Health, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and it’s particularly common among women of childbearing age.
There are two types of iron — heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron, which makes up 40 percent of the iron in meat, poultry, and fish, is well absorbed by the body. Non-heme iron, on the other hand, makes up 60 percent of the iron in animal tissue and all the iron in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts) and is less well absorbed by the body.
The Importance of Iron
It’s no secret that iron is essential to human health. This abundant, strong, and versatile mineral plays a vital role in many bodily functions.
Most people are aware that iron is a key component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. What many people don’t realize is that iron is also necessary for muscle function, cognitive development, immune system health, and more.
Foods That Contain Iron
There are many different types of food that contain iron, but some are better sources than others. Here are some of the best food sources of iron:
-Meat: Beef, pork, and lamb are all good sources of iron.
-Dark chicken and turkey meat: The darker the meat, the higher the iron content.
-Seafood: Oysters, clams, Mussels, and shrimp are all good sources of iron.
-Beans and lentils: These legumes are a great source of both soluble and insoluble forms of iron.
-Tofu: This soy product is a good source of vegan-friendly iron.
-Nuts and seeds: Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and cashews are all good sources of iron.
-Leafy green vegetables: Spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are all excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble forms of iron.
-Dried fruit: Apricots, prunes, and raisins are all good sources of soluble form iron.
How Much Iron Do You Need?
Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough hemoglobin, and you may develop anemia.
How much iron you need each day depends on your age, gender, and health. For example, teenage girls and women who are pregnant need more iron than other people.
The amount of iron in food varies. Some foods, such as cereals and breads, have added iron. Other foods naturally contain heart-healthy amounts of iron:
Oysters — 84% DV in 3 ounces
Clams — 63% DV in 3 ounces
Mussels — 61% DV in 3 ounces
Liver — 57% DV in 3 ounces
Spinach — 15% DV in 1/2 cup cooked
Signs of Iron Deficiency
Iron is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including the transport of oxygen in the blood and the regulation of cell growth. However, when levels of iron are low, it can lead to a number of health problems.
The most common cause of iron deficiency is not getting enough iron in your diet. However, there are other causes as well, such as blood loss, pregnancy, and certain medical conditions.
If you think you might be deficient in iron, look out for these signs and symptoms:
-Shortness of breath
Causes of Iron Deficiency
There are many potential causes of iron deficiency, but the most common cause is blood loss. Blood loss can happen slowly over time, or it can happen suddenly due to an injury or surgery. Other potential causes of iron deficiency include:
– Not getting enough iron in your diet
– Pregnancy and breastfeeding
– Chronic kidney disease
– Gastrointestinal problems like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease
If you think you might be iron deficient, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your iron levels and determine the best course of treatment.
Treating Iron Deficiency
Iron is found in food in two forms, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron, which makes up 40 percent of the iron in meat, poultry, and fish, is well absorbed. Non-heme iron, 60 percent of the iron in animal tissue and all the iron in plants (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts) is less well absorbed. Because hemoglobin contains heme iron, eating foods that are rich in heme iron can help prevent anemia.
While non-heme iron is not as well absorbed as heme iron, it is still an important source of this essential mineral. Foods that are high in non-heme iron include:
Prevention of Iron Deficiency
Prevention of iron deficiency is best accomplished by consuming a diet that contains a variety of iron-rich foods. The best way to get enough iron is to eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods that include:
-Red meat, poultry, and fish
-Beans and lentils
-Dark leafy green vegetables
-Fortified cereals and breads
Our results show that dark, leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard have the most iron, followed by legumes like lentils and beans. Red meat, liver, and oysters are also good sources of iron. If you’re looking for foods that are high in iron, these are the ones to choose.