Keeping up your iron levels is an important necessity for your body, as it comes in handy for overall health. From transporting oxygen in the blood to energy production, and to playing a major role in collagen production, iron plays an important function in your diet. Deficiency in iron levels can result in conditions like shortness of breath, weakness, or fatigue. Increase your iron levels with nutrient-rich foods for better health and vitality.
In this blog, we are going to understand how iron plays an important role in bodily functions and the top foods that are rich in iron. So if you are someone who is suffering from iron deficiency, or you know someone who is then this blog is for you.
Importance Of Iron In Daily Nutrition
Iron is important for providing oxygen to your muscles and producing energy for your body. It also plays a key role in defending the free radicals in your body and boosting your immune response. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to serious complications and can also affect the health of the child growing inside you. Studies have also concluded that iron enhances collagen production and regulates your body temperature.
Iron deficiency can lead to several health conditions like:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Pale looking skin
- Heart palpitations
- Painful headaches
- Brittle nails
- Weird cravings for ice and dirt
- Weak taste buds
- Feeling cold for unexplainable reasons
- Difficulty in concentration
- Extreme hair loss
- Difficulty in swallowing food
- Hissing noises in your head
- Frequent and incessant itching
- Restless leg syndrome, or a compelling urge to move your legs
- Getting sick frequently or very easily
As per the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, the recommended iron intake for an adult female should be 18 gms, and for an adult male should be 8 gm. The highest intake of iron should be consumed by expecting mothers which is 27 gm. Another fun fact about iron is that it does not metabolize with your body, instead, it is recycled and retained for bodily function.
Top 6 Iron-Rich Foods
To understand which iron food you should intake, it is important to know the difference between heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme or oxygen-rich iron is mostly found in poultry, seafood, and meat. Whereas non-heme is categorized as a plant-based iron source that takes a little longer to absorb in your body.
However, both heme and non-heme irons are essential for your body’s growth and overall health.
Here is a list of food sources that can add ample iron levels to your body:
1. Red Meat And Poultry Food
If you are a fan of eggs, chicken, and pork, then you are in for a surprise. Dark meat tends to have a high absorption level in your body and is good for your iron levels. You can also dive into the organ meat, especially liver which not only tastes good but also has multiple health benefits. However, the downside is pregnant mothers and individuals with high cholesterol should not consume liver fat, as it can have adverse effects.
If you get squeamish with the blood-red meat, then you can always turn to seafood for heme-sourced iron. Oysters, clams, mussels, shrimps, and fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids and iron that are good for your heart health.
Studies have found that your immune function is also enhanced and nerve and blood cells also improve their health when you consume seafood. Apart from this, you can also gain B9 vitamins and zinc, when eating seafood.
Coming to non-heme iron or plant-based iron sources, legumes are an excellent source of iron. You can add lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans to your side dishes when you have low levels of iron. Pairing chickpea salad or cooked lentils with a bowl of rice will not only increase your iron intake but also give you soul-filling food. You can also pair it up with the meat dishes and increase your vitamin C intake.
4. Fortified Food
What does a bowl of cereal at breakfast tell you? The fortified foods are often packed with iron and fiber that is ready to make and highly nutritious. The added advantage of eating cereal is that you can add your choice of fruits to it or have juice along with it.
Iron bars and raisin brands are a popular choice for breakfast cereal and you can opt for it with less sugar content as well. Besides, starting your day with an easy-to-make cereal bowl and a glass of juice is a classic way to energize your body.
5. Nuts And Seeds
Almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds are not only a healthy snack but an excellent source of iron. You can binge-snack on them or add them to your baked goods, smoothies, oatmeal, salads, yogurts, and cereal. These are delicious and vegan-friendly, which makes it an ideal choice for festivities and celebrations as well.
6. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Dark greens like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are a great source of antioxidants and iron. You can add them to your salads or make a smoothie that is more interesting and easy to consume. If you have a hectic schedule then add the raw spinach, your choice of fiber, and some nuts to have a power-packed meal in a glass. You can also earn brownie points for increasing your protein, calcium, fiber, and vitamins A and E with spinach.
Increasing your iron levels is not a difficult task, but maintaining the streak is. You can always have the right food at the right time, but the portion matters every time. It is important to note that iron does not excrete from your system and metabolizes in your body, so consuming iron from a good source is ideal.
Switch to home-cooked and fresh meat meals instead of dining out. This way you are getting your hands on organic meat and keeping a check on your cholesterol. So, fuel up with an iron feast and savor the strength!
- Dainty JR, Berry R, Lynch SR, Harvey LJ, Fairweather-Tait SJ. Estimation of dietary iron bioavailability from food iron intake and iron status. PLoS One. 2014;9(10):e111824. [PMC free article]
- Hunt JR, Zito CA, Johnson LK. Body iron excretion by healthy men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jun;89(6):1792-8. [PubMed]