Iron is an essential mineral that is required for proper functioning of the body. It is one of the major components of hemoglobin and is required for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also a part of several enzymes and proteins in the body. It is required to maintain healthy immune function and contributes to drug detoxification pathways in the liver.
Low iron levels can cause iron deficiency- anemia which shows itself in many ways such as low energy, dizziness, lethargy, peeling skin and peeling nails. Other symptoms of iron deficiency include: headache, fatigue and weakness, rapid and forceful heartbeat, low blood pressure, breathing problem, brittle hair, vulnerability to infection, abdominal pain and disturbed sleep. Conversely, too much iron can lead to the production of free radicals and may interfere with metabolism, causing heart and liver damage.
[ Read: Iron Deficiency ]
You can find iron in both animal and plant sources. Heme iron is found in meat, fish and poultry and is easily absorbed by the body. Non-heme iron is found in plant sources. You absorb up to 30% of heme iron and 2 to 10% of non-heme iron.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron is 10 mg for adult men and 15 mg for adult women. Pregnant ladies require around 30 mg of iron per day.
Need For Iron Rich Diet During Pregnancy
The amount of blood in our body increases during pregnancy until the body has almost 50% more blood than usual. So our body requires more iron to produce more hemoglobin. The body also requires extra iron for the growing fetus and placenta, especially in second and third trimesters. Therefore, it is important to take more iron during pregnancy to ensure that both baby and mother get enough oxygen. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to preterm delivery, low birth rate, and infant mortality. Following a balanced diet and including foods high in iron ensure that you are getting enough iron throughout your pregnancy.
Iron Deficiency Causes
- Chronic anemia
- Pre-dialysis anemia
Health Benefits Of Iron
- Eradication of fatigue
- Strengthening the immune system
- Fight off infections
- Build concentration
- Treat insomnia
- Regulate body temperature
Sources Of Iron In Diet
Here are 25 foods rich in iron.
Clams contain the highest amount of iron found in any animal sources. Three ounces of clam provide a whopping 24mg of iron and 126 calories. Clam is also a good source of potassium and Vitamin B12.
[ Read: Vitamin B12 ]
3 ounces of oyster contain 10.5 mg of iron and 117 calories. This super-food is also a good source of Vitamin B12. Oysters are best enjoyed half shell.
A half-cup serving of beans can provide around 10% of your daily iron need. Beans like white kidneys, black beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and chickpeas are rich in iron. Black bean is one of the richest sources of molybdenum, a mineral essential for iron utilization and enzyme function. One single cup of black-eyed peas supplies up to a quarter of your daily iron need. Kidney beans also help to boost energy levels and lower the risk of heart attacks.
[ Read: Vitamin C ]
Soybean is another superfood that is packed with protein, unsaturated fats, fiber and minerals like iron and zinc. A single cup of boiled soybean contains nearly half the recommended amount of iron for your daily requirements. Soybean products like tofu and tempeh are also rich in iron, supplying around 15 percent of iron per 3 ounces. Tempeh contains 2.5 mg iron and tofu contains 2.4 mg of iron per 100 grams. Tofu has a wonderful ability to adapt the flavor it is prepared with, so you can easily use tofu in a number of dishes. Soybean also contains a decent amount of vitamin C, enough to make it easier for the body to absorb the essential iron. Toss bean sprouts into a salad, soup, omelet, stir fry and even sandwiches.
Barley, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa are amazing natural sources of iron. Quinoa contains 3.2 mg of iron and twice as much fiber as most grains. Grains are best served with vegetables high in vitamin C, like cabbage, tomato, and potato to enhance the iron level in the body.
Nuts such as cashew, pine nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia, almonds and Brazil nuts provide approximately 10% of the daily iron requirement. Sesame nut and pine nuts contain the highest level of iron in their respective food groups. Grab a handful of your favorite nuts for a quick snack, or blend them in your savory or sandwich spread.
7. Pumpkin Seeds
A handful of pumpkin seed contains about a milligram of iron. Pumpkin seeds are most beneficial when they are eaten raw. Raw pumpkin seeds provide 30 percent of the daily iron requirement and roasted pumpkin seed supply around 15% of the daily iron requirement. Studies have also shown that pumpkin seeds can help prevent gallstone formation.
[ Read: Quinoa ]
Lentils are nutritious and delicious, and a half cup offers 4 mg of iron and 115 calories. It provides 16 grams of protein per serving. Lentils contain insoluble fiber which helps to hunger pangs at bay. It is also a good source of magnesium, vitamin B6, and essential amino acids.
Meat is the most recommended food source for improving hemoglobin level in the body. Beef, lamb, pork, poultry, chicken, lean sirloin and ham are some excellent meat sources of iron. An ounce of lean sirloin contains 2.9 mg of iron, in addition to being rich in vitamin B, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin D. One serving of beef contains 1.8 mg of iron. Lean, ground beef also helps to lower cholesterol levels. One ounce of chicken breast comes packed with 2 mg of iron.
[ Read: Macadamia ]
Cuttlefish, salmon, sardines and veal are excellent sources of iron. Better known as super-food, salmon contains Omega-3 fatty acids that prevent blood clots and reduces the chance of having a stroke.
Egg is a good breakfast option for individuals suffering from iron deficiency. A perfect diet rich in iron. Two eggs a day will provide around 8 percent of the daily value of iron. Egg contains heme iron, which gets easily absorbed in the body, and also helps the body to absorb non-heme iron from vegetable sources. Combine eggs with iron rich vegetables like spinach, broccoli, tomato and beans to get the most out of it.
12. Dark Green Vegetables
Spinach, collard, and arugula are easily available and high in iron that you can incorporate into your diet to boost your iron level. A cup of cooked spinach provides 3.2 mg of iron and 21 calories. Since spinach is loaded with Vitamin C, our body will have no trouble in absorbing iron. Spinach also contains flavonoid, an anti-cancer compound found in plants, which slows cell growth in the stomach and skin cancer cells. Collard contains a staggering amount of calcium, vitamin A, and several cancer-fighting elements. It is a perfect vegetable for vegetarians, as it is high in both iron and vitamin C.
[ Read: Pumpkin seeds ]
13. Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is a great ingredient to add a sweet touch to your savory meal. It is enriched with iron and vitamin B6 and is known to prevent over 100 health conditions, especially those related to brain and heart.
14. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is one way to indulge your daily iron needs. A 100-gram serving contains 35% of your recommended daily intake of iron. It is also known to lower blood pressure and high cholesterol. But again moderation is the key!
If you are tired of eating fruits and vegetables for your daily iron intake, try adding molasses to your meals. A half cup of molasses provides 15 % of the recommended value of iron. Besides, it is also rich in calcium and vitamin E. Mix molasses with warm milk and to it add cereal for a healthy breakfast.
16. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits are rich in plenty of nutrients, including iron. Dried apricot is an excellent source of iron. Each 50 grams serving of apricots contain 4 mg of iron and just 78 calories. Dried apricots are also rich in beta-carotene, fiber, and other essential nutrients. You can munch a handful of apricots throughout the day, or chop them to serve with desserts and salads. Dried peaches contain about 2 mg of iron per 100 grams. Raisins are another nutrient dense treats that contain large amounts of iron. You can add a handful of these sweet treats to your cereal, yogurt, fruit salad, and oatmeal.
[ Read: Vitamin D ]
Eating a serving of broccoli every day is a great way to get more iron into your diet. Broccoli has an endless list of benefits, which includes being an excellent source of iron. 100 grams of broccoli contain 2.7 mg of iron. It is an excellent source of fiber which eases digestion.
Just like other green vegetables, peas are rich in iron and other essential nutrients. It is very easy to incorporate this tender vegetable into your favorite meal. A mere half-cup serving provides 1.4mg of iron, about 7% of the daily recommended value of iron. You can add peas in your salad, soup, and pasta.
Eating strawberries is a great way to pump up your daily iron intake. A half cup of strawberries provides roughly 9% of the daily recommended value. Not only are strawberries a good source of iron, they also contain a high amount of vitamin C that aid in the absorption of iron in the blood.
20. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds not just provide a remarkable supply of vitamin E, but they also come packed with essential minerals, especially iron. Just one cup serving of sunflower seeds, provide nearly half of body’s daily iron need. Sunflower seeds can be found easily in a grocery store or supermarket near you.
Kale is a fat-free super-food that provides the body with a host of nutrients and only a handful of calories. Kale contains 1.6 mg of iron and about 115 calories per pint. Kale is very beneficial for fighting anemia and fatigue with its high iron content. Sauté kale, and add it to your soup or burger, or make delicious chips out of it.
[ Read: Top 10 Serotonin Rich Foods ]
Besides adding flavor to your dishes, tomatoes are well known for their high iron content. One cup of tomato provides nearly 30% of daily recommended iron intake. Tomatoes will make a tasty addition to omelets, pizza and pasta sauce, sandwiches, salad, curries and more. They also contain healthy nutrients like vitamin C, antioxidants, and lycopene.
A half-cup serving of oatmeal is packed with 2 milligrams of iron. Along with loads of other nutrients, oatmeal will make a healthy breakfast. You can use oats to make granola bars, cookies, and other sweet treats.
24. Brown Rice
Brown rice is a staple food in several cuisines and is important for health. It is rich in fiber, which helps the body to get rid of toxins, while its high iron content fights anemia and fatigue. Cook brown rice with vitamin C rich vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, beans and carrots for an iron rich meal.
[ Read: Top 10 Arginine Rich Foods ]
25. Whole Wheat Pasta
Whole wheat pasta is another good sources of iron in the diet. Eating pasta is a great way to curb your cravings, while getting essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and, of course, iron. Vegetarians, in particular, should include wheat pasta as a part of their balanced diet. 100% whole wheat pasta will keep your stomach full, while providing an energy boost that will last for hours.
Asparagus has numerous health advantages. It is thought to be a boost to a healthy diet. Asparagus acts as an ally in absorbing the iron from the food and also recommended against early aging.
This red root vegetable is a bountiful source of digestible iron, vitamins B&C and potassium. Hence it is used in detoxification process for proper functioning of the liver. It keeps the skin glowing and gives a purple tinge to your cheeks. 1 cup of beet contains 3.90 gm of Iron.
28. Turnip Greens
The turnip or white turnip is a vegetable that normally grows in temperate climates worldwide. Small, tender varieties are used for human consumption. 1 cup of turnip contains 3.18 gm of Iron.
A pretty little Mediterranean herb that renders a sprinkling of color to your plate. Parsley has been around for over 2000 years. Parsley is opulent in several important vitamins and antioxidants. This implies that parsley keeps your system robust, tones your bones and heals the nervous system, too. 1 cup of parsley contains 4.00 gm of Iron.
Consume fresh strawberries to boost your daily iron intake. They are a good source of iron and vitamin C, which helps the body to absorb more iron. This delicious fruit can be added to any breakfast dish, smoothie, or consumed raw.
31. Prune Juice
Prune juice is very delicious and a good source of iron. It contains a good amount of vitamin C, which helps our body to absorb the iron effortlessly. For best results, consume it daily.
This is another wonderful fruit that is rich in iron. This iron is required for hemoglobin that acts as an oxygen-carrying pigment in the red blood cells. Iron deficiency can cause anemia, inflammation, pale skin, thinning, undernourished hair and heavy bleeding.
Raisins are filled with large amounts of iron. This sweet fruit is to be added to milk, juices, yogurt, oatmeal, cereals, or salads to form a balanced diet. Vitamin C can be helpful to your body to absorb the iron comprised in raisins.
Watermelon is also an excellent source of iron. Watermelon can give you an equal amount of iron as red meat. It is filled with vitamin A and C, iron, zinc, beta carotene, lycopene, potassium and many other minerals. They also help in losing weight and stay fit.
Dates are a very good source of iron. It has 0.90 mg of iron in 100 grams. Iron in the red blood cells acts as oxygen carriers of the blood.
Bananas are a rich and natural source of iron. Bananas help to stimulate the production of hemoglobin in our blood and helps in curing anemia.
“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away”. An apple contains nutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but it fails to provide a good amount of iron required for a daily diet. Iron is required for forming red blood cells to transport oxygen in our body and produce energy in the body.
Grapes have little iron which provides about two percent of iron for a woman. Fruits normally don’t provide much amount of iron, but they are surely a very rich source of other vitamins and minerals.
This provides some iron in the diet. A handful of blueberries can provide about three percent of iron for a woman (20-25). They are also a good source of antioxidants. Hence, they can even be useful in many other ways.
40. Tamarind Juice
Tamarind juice is a good source of iron, riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin. Tamarind juice has a very sour and acidic taste. Try consuming it with sugar tempered on it.
41. Black Olives
Black olives are a good source of iron. Iron plays an important role in the production of energy. It is useful in producing carnitine, a non-essential amino acid which is important for the utilization of fat. The proper function of the immune system depends on sufficient iron in the body, which can be obtained from black olives.
Important Points To Remember
Eat iron rich diet along with foods rich in vitamin C. This will help the body to absorb iron more efficiently and quickly. Tea and coffee contain compounds known as polyphenols, which can bind iron, making it harder for the body to absorb. Calcium also hinders the absorption of iron so avoid high in calcium foods before or after eating iron rich foods. Simmering highly acidic foods like tomato puree, in an iron pot can increase the iron content more than ten folds.