Be Iron Strong: Discovering the Best Sources of Iron
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In a world filled with superfoods, trendy diets, and wellness fads, it's easy for certain nutritional powerhouses to get overshadowed. One such unsung hero of the nutrient realm is iron. From supporting our energy levels to strengthening our immune system, iron is an essential micronutrient that demands our attention. This is why we are here to tell you why you should make iron-rich foods a priority and how to do it effectively.
What is Iron & Why is it Necessary?
Iron, a vital mineral, can be discovered within the confines of each and every cell, nurturing the body's overall functionality. Its main function is to assist red blood cells in carrying oxygen to the body's tissues. Iron is necessary for the production of haemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Iron also contributes to the development of the immune system, metabolism, and cognitive development.
How Much Iron Do You Need Per Day?
Different amounts of iron are advised daily depending on factors including age, gender, and stage of life. The suggested daily intake for postmenopausal women and adult males is 8 milligrams (mg). Premenopausal women and pregnant women, on the other hand, need greater doses—18 mg and 27 mg daily, respectively. It is important to remember that these numbers might change depending on dietary and personal health considerations.
Health Benefits of Iron-Rich Foods
With the many advantages iron proposes for your overall well-being, an iron-rich diet is the need of the hour. Here’s how it can help support your health:
Iron supports the production of red blood cells, preventing anaemia and improving energy levels
Iron plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system, aiding in the body's defence against infections and diseases
Iron contributes to cognitive function and muscle metabolism
Iron promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails
What is Iron Deficiency?
Iron Deficiency is the most common type of anaemia, characterised by low levels of iron in the body. It can lead to symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, pale skin, dizziness, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Some common causes of iron deficiency include:
Poor dietary intake, especially in individuals with restricted diets or limited access to nutrient-rich foods
Blood loss through menstruation, injury, or gastrointestinal bleeding
Poor iron absorption
Certain medical conditions that increase iron requirements
Now that you’re well-versed with what iron is and why it is essential to incorporate an iron-rich diet into your daily life, let’s uncover the many sources of iron available.
Top Food Sources of Iron
If you’re searching for foods with iron to include in your dietary plan, we have narrowed down a list of the best iron-rich foods. It comprises:
Heme Iron Sources
Heme iron is a type of iron derived from haemoglobin and myoglobin, which are proteins found in animal tissues. These sources of iron are primarily animal-based foods. Some examples include:
1. Lean Red Meat
Heme iron is abundant in red meat, particularly in lean cuts like beef, lamb, and venison. It offers a large quantity of iron per serving and is easily absorbed by the body. For instance, a serving of 100 grams of beef contains about 2.47 mg of iron, while lamb and venison contain 1.78 mg and 4.98mg, respectively.
2. Organ Meats
Heme iron levels are extremely high in organ meats like the liver and heart. They are a nutrient-dense option since they are also loaded with other crucial nutrients. For example, a 100 gram serving of beef liver contains about 6.5 milligrams of iron.
Poultry, particularly chicken, and turkey, have less heme iron compared to red meat, yet it is still a great supply of this necessary mineral. A 100 gram serving of cooked dark turkey meat comprises 1.4 mg of iron.
Heme iron can be found in abundance in seafood, notably in shellfish like oysters, clams, and mussels. For instance, clams contain 2.91 mg of iron, while mussels and oysters contain 7.08 mg and 8.26 mg of iron, respectively.
Non-Heme Iron Sources
Non-heme iron is a form of iron that is not derived from haemoglobin or myoglobin. It is the predominant type of iron found in plant-based foods. Some non-heme iron food sources are:
1. Legumes and beans
Legumes and beans, particularly lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans are packed with a good amount of iron, along with fibre and other nutrients. One cup(198gm) of cooked lentils contains about 6.6 gm of iron, while one cup (200gm) of chickpeas contains 8.6 gm of iron.
2. Dark leafy greens
In addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals, dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and swiss chard are also a substantial source of non-heme iron. For instance, 100 gm of spinach consists of about 2.7 gm of iron, while 100 gm of kale and swiss chard contain 1.6 mg and 1.8 mg of iron, respectively.
3. Fortified breakfast cereals
Many breakfast cereals are fortified with iron, providing an easily available way to get this important mineral. Check the nutrition labels to find cereals that provide a good amount of iron without excessive added sugars. For example, one cup (14 gm) of fortified puffed rice was found to contain about 4 mg of iron.
4. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are not only delicious but also offer a decent amount of non-heme iron, particularly seeds like pumpkin and sesame seeds. Dried pumpkin seeds contain 8.82 mg of iron for 100 grams of serving, while 100 grams of dried sesame seeds contain about 14.6 mg of iron.
Quinoa is a multipurpose seed that resembles a grain and is naturally gluten-free and high in non-heme iron. One cup (185gm) of cooked quinoa contains about 2.7 mg of iron.
6. Tofu and tempeh
Tofu and tempeh, both derived from soybeans, are excellent sources of non-heme iron. A half cup (126gm) serving of tofu consists of about 3.3 mg of iron, while one cup of tempeh (166gm) is about 4.4 mg of iron.
7. Dried fruits
A rich concentration of non-heme iron can be found in dried fruits like raisins and apricots. A 100 grams serving of dried apricots and raisins, each contains about 2.6 and 1.7 mg of iron, respectively.
Iron-Rich Vegetables and Fruits
In addition to the sources mentioned above, certain vegetables and fruits are also incredible sources of iron. Here are some iron-rich options:
Packed with a nutritious punch, broccoli is a good source of iron, with about 0.67 mg of iron per 100 grams serving.
2. Brussels sprouts
These miniature cabbages are full of essential nutrients, including iron. In one cup (88 mg) serving of brussels sprouts, you can find about 1.2 mg of iron.
3. Potatoes with skin
Potatoes, particularly when consumed with the skin, offer good amounts of iron. One large unpeeled baked potato (299) contains about 1.9 mg of iron. But even without skin, sweet potatoes can be found to have good amounts of iron, about 1.09 mg in a medium-sized (151 gm) sweet potato.
Prunes, also known as dried plums, are not only high in fibre but also a good source of iron among dried fruits. A 100 grams serving of prunes contain about 0.9 mg of iron.
Alongside being a refreshing and hydrating fruit, watermelon can also be a good source of iron. One cup of diced watermelon consists of about 0.3 mg of iron.
While it may not be a significant source, it can contribute to your overall iron intake when combined with other iron-rich foods.
Additionally, if you’re looking for a way to upgrade your kids’ daily iron intake, you can consider adding a hot drink powder like Horlicks to their morning routine. It contains 9 essential nutrients, including iron, which have been scientifically proven to enhance concentration and boost immunity. So, don't hesitate to give it a try today and witness the positive difference it can make!
Understanding the importance of incorporating iron-rich foods into our diets is vital for maintaining optimal health and preventing iron deficiency. By including these top iron food sources, you can create a well-rounded diet that fulfils your daily iron needs. These sources of iron offer a variety of new and tasty ways to enhance your iron intake. Remember to pay attention to iron content in food and make conscious decisions to ensure your body receives this essential mineral for overall well-being.
It is important to speak with a healthcare provider or qualified dietitian for personalised guidance if you think you may be iron deficient or have special dietary needs.
1. Which vegetarian food is high in iron?
Spinach, lentils, nuts and seeds are excellent vegetarian iron-rich foods.
2. How can I get 100% iron daily?
Consuming an iron-rich diet with foods like red meat, legumes, fortified cereals, and dark leafy greens, depending on your preferences and needs. It’s recommended to consult a medical professional to understand what your body needs.
3. Are eggs high in iron?
Eggs contain a moderate amount of iron, with about 0.5 mg of iron found in 1 large egg (50 gm).
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