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11 Foods High in Iron

11 Foods High in Iron

Your body requires iron for physical growth, oxygen delivery, energy creation, hormone synthesis, and other vital biological functions.

Iron is found in a range of animal and plant-based diets. Many fortified foods, including breakfast cereals, contain it. However, many people consume less iron than the daily recommended amount. Iron deficiency can lead to other nutrient deficiencies and medical issues.

Understanding which foods contain iron might help you make more informed dietary decisions.

What Is the Purpose of Iron?

The primary function of iron in the body is to carry oxygen. In addition, iron helps to produce hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your cells and organs. Your blood contains approximately 65% of the iron in your body, and it is iron that gives your blood its vivid red hue.

Iron is required for growth and development, cellular function, and the creation of certain hormones, in addition to oxygen delivery.

Your body recycles and reuses iron from old blood cells, which accounts for up to 90% of your iron requirements.3 However, your body loses trace amounts of iron daily.

Most people lose roughly one milligram (mg) of iron daily through their stool.

How Much Iron Do We Require?

Age, menstruation, and pregnancy status all influence iron requirements.

Menstruating women require additional iron owing to blood loss during their monthly period. In addition, pregnancy and some medical disorders boost the body’s requirement for nutritional iron.

The following are the daily iron recommendations for non-vegetarians:

  • 8 mg for men aged 19 to 50.
  • Women aged 19 to 50 years: 18 mg
  • 8 mg for men aged 51 and up
  • Women above the age of 51: 8 mg
  • Women who are pregnant: 27 mg
  • Women who are breastfeeding: 9 mg

Non-Heme Iron vs. Heme Iron

For vegetarians and vegans, daily iron recommendations are around 1.8 times greater. This is because your body can absorb and use heme iron, which is found in animal foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, better than non-heme iron, which is found in plant foods. The body absorbs approximately 25% of dietary heme iron and approximately 17% of dietary non-heme iron.

Heme iron also improves non-heme iron absorption. As a result, those who do not consume animal sources of iron may need extra plant-based iron or take an iron supplement to achieve their daily requirements.

Eating non-heme iron with vitamin C can help your body absorb iron more effectively. Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits, strawberries, melons, bell peppers, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

What Iron-Rich Foods Are There?

Heme iron is found in meat, poultry, shellfish, and eggs. Non-heme iron is found in many plant-based diets, including whole grains, nuts and seeds, and leafy greens.

There are many iron-rich foods, whether you are an omnivore or follow a largely plant-based diet.

Organ Meats

Organ meats are among the most nutrient-dense foods available. These protein-rich foods also contain minerals like selenium and zinc, vitamin B12, fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, and iron.

The iron concentration of certain popular organ meats is as follows:

  • Chicken liver: 5.1 mg/1.5 oz, or 28% of the Daily Value (DV).
  • 5.56 mg per 3 oz of beef liver, or 31% of the DV
  • 5.42 mg per 3 oz of beef heart, or 30% of the DV

Red Meat

Iron is abundant in red foods such as cattle, bison, and venison. Red meat, like organ meats, is high in vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, and protein.

Fish and Shellfish

Fish and shellfish include several essential elements such as iron, selenium, zinc, iodine, and vitamin B12. Seafood also contains omega-3 fats, aiding in immune function and regulating inflammation.

Chicken and eggs

Although poultry has less iron than red meat, it is still a good source. Iron levels are higher in dark meat than in white meat. Iron, B vitamins, and minerals such as selenium are also found in chicken, turkey, and duck.

Lentils with beans

Non-heme iron is abundant in beans and lentils. They’re also high in plant-based protein, fiber, magnesium, folate, and other essential elements.

Beans and lentils, like other plant meals, contain natural compounds known as anti nutrients. Antinutrients may impair your body’s capacity to absorb important nutrients such as iron. Antinutrients can be reduced by soaking dried beans and lentils or preferring sprouted legume products. However, studies show that many of these antinutrients may benefit the body. Therefore, consuming unbalanced levels of these nutrients may result in harmful effects.

Vegetables in Green

Green vegetables include a variety of vital nutrients as well as plant compounds that protect the body, such as folate, vitamin C, and carotenoid antioxidants. In addition, non-heme iron is found in many greens, particularly cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. This mineral is abundant in leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and swiss chard.

Products Made from Soy

Many people who follow a plant-based diet ingest soy products such as tofu and edamame to supplement their protein intake. Tofu and edamame are both high in protein. They also supply non-heme iron.

Products Made from Cocoa

High-quality cocoa products are rich in minerals such as iron and magnesium. Cocoa products also include flavonoid antioxidants, which aid in preventing cellular damage and reducing inflammation in the body.

When shopping for cocoa, look for high-quality items low in added sugar. Among the healthier options are pure cocoa powder, cacao nibs, and dark chocolate.

Seeds and nuts

Including nuts and seeds in your diet can help you get more iron. Nuts and seeds also contain fiber, healthy fats, protein, magnesium, and other nutrients.

Grains that have been sprouted

Unrefined grains include phytates and antinutrients that can interfere with iron absorption. Plant-based chemicals known as antinutrients reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the diet.

Soaking grains in water until they germinate, or sprout, is what sprouting is. Like that of beans and legumes, this process breaks down antinutrients, which may assist in increasing your body’s ability to absorb iron.

Foods that have been fortified

Fortified foods are those that have nutrients added to them during the manufacturing process. For example, iron is frequently added to plant-based foods such as cereals to increase their nutritional content. Remember that non-heme iron, which is less bioavailable than heme iron, is present in fortified meals.

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