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Iron-Rich Foods: Meat, Vegetable, Fruits, and Other Sources of Iron

Iron-Rich Foods: Meat, Vegetable, Fruits, and Other Sources of Iron

Iron-rich foods are a vital part of the diet for the simple reason that iron is an essential mineral for humans to survive and lead a healthy life. Apart from other important functions, the most crucial function of iron in the body is to deliver oxygen throughout the body with the help of red blood cells. 18 mg is the daily value of iron that the body gets mainly through iron-rich foods. The body stores its iron reserves through iron-rich foods, not to face any deficit at times of need. The iron reserves built through the consumption of iron-rich foods regularly also ensure the iron-absorbing capacity of the body.

Consequences of Low Iron-Rich Foods in The Diet-

Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia, indicating a decrease in red blood cells caused by deficient consumption of iron-rich foods. Without sufficient iron, the body can not produce enough hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that makes it possible for the RBCs to carry oxygen to the bloodstream and deliver it to all the parts of the body. 

As a result of low levels of iron reserves or low consumption of iron-rich foods, one may feel fatigued, tired, or irritated. About 50% of pregnant women, 20% of women in general, and 3% of men face iron deficiency due to a lack of iron-rich foods in their diet. According to the World Health Organization, Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency mainly present in the developed nations. The only solution to cope with low iron reserves is to add more iron-rich foods to the diet. 

Heme Iron or Non-Heme Iron, which Has More Iron-Rich Foods?

Foods with iron contain two types of iron — Heme and Non-heme iron. Meat, poultry, and fish have a high content of heme iron. Heme iron present in iron-rich foods is the type of iron the human body can readily absorb without much difficulty. Up to 30 percent of the heme iron is easily consumable. Generally, eating meat stocks up the iron reserves faster than other iron-rich foods. Non-heme iron-rich foods are plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Foods rich with iron, particularly with non-heme iron, are still vital to a nutritious and well-balanced diet. However, non-heme iron is not efficiently consumable in the body. Only 10 percent of iron is consumable out of these iron-rich foods. Heme iron-rich foods are more popular iron-rich foods because of their fast absorption capacity in the human body. Other nutrients like vitamin C, abundantly present in tomatoes, orange, lemon, and red, yellow, and orange peppers – can stimulate the absorption of non-heme iron foods to make them iron-rich foods truly.

The Daily Requirement of Iron in The Body-

  • Older women- 8 mg
  • Young women (age 19 – 51)- 18 mg
  • Pregnant women- 27 mg
  • Men- 8 mg
  • Infants and children- 7 mg- 16 mg (depending upon the age and height)

List of Iron-Rich Foods

Fortunately, there are iron-rich foods present in both the categories of vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. These foods with iron enrich the diet with essential nutrients and minerals. Interestingly, one can add varieties to the diet by switching between these iron-rich foods. Adding the type of iron-rich foods depends upon the health condition, nutritional requirements, dietary preferences, etc. A low or high amount of iron in the body can affect health precariously. Thus it is vital to make dietary alterations with the help of a health expert as they keep in mind different health factors. Below given are some famous iron-rich foods.

MEATSEAFOODVEGETABLESCEREALSFRUITSBEANS
BeefShrimpsSpinachWhite BreadStrawberriesLentils
ChickenClampsPeasWhole Wheat BreadWatermelonDried Peas
TurkeyOystersBroccoliBran CerealsRaisin Dried Beans 
LambTunaString BeansWheat PastaDates Tofu
LiverSardinesSweet PotatoesCorn MealFigsKidney Beans
HamHaddockBeat greensOat Cereal Dried ApricotsWhite Beans
PorkMackerelTomatoesRye BreadDried PeachesCorn

1. Red Meat- The Most Famous Non-Veg Iron-Rich Food

Red meat is among the most nutritious and satisfying sources of iron. A 100 gram serving of chopped beef consists of 2.7 mg of iron, which is about 15% of the Daily value requirement. Along with being an iron-rich food, meat also contains protein, selenium, zinc, and many B vitamins.

Researchers suggest that people who regularly eat iron-rich foods like meat, fish, or poultry are less prone to iron deficiency. In fact, red meat is perhaps the single most easily accessible heme iron source, making it a potential iron-rich food source for people prone to anemia. A study about good sources of iron was conducted on some women. It revealed that women eating meat retained good iron stores compared to those who consumed iron supplements. Meat is thus among the top iron-rich foods for women and adults.

2. Oysters and Clams- Shellfish is a Tasty Iron-rich Food Source. 

All shellfish contain high iron content, but iron-rich foods like oysters, clams, and mussels are particularly reputable sources. For instance, a 100-gram serving of clams contains up to 3 mg of iron, which is about 17% of the Daily value requirement.

However, good sources of iron, such as clams, are highly variable and may not be foods with high iron. The type of iron in shellfish is heme iron which the body can absorb more easily than the non-heme iron present in plants. A 100 gram serving of clams also contains 26 grams of protein, about 24% of the daily value for vitamin C, and a whopping 4,125% of the daily value for vitamin B12.

In fact, along with being iron-rich foods, all shellfish are high in other nutrients as well and even increase the level of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol, which is good cholesterol for the body. 

3. Organ Meat- Another Non-Vegetarian Iron-Rich Food

 Organ meat is an extremely nutritious source of iron-rich foods. Popular categories include liver, kidneys, heart, and brain all of which are good sources of iron. For instance, a 100 gram serving of beef liver consists of 6.5 mg of iron which is about 36% of the daily value. Organ meats along with being a top iron-rich food contain protein, B vitamins, selenium, and copper. Vitamin A is abundant in the liver helping in efficient iron absorption.

Also See: What Are The Different Types Of Protein?

4. Spinach- The Green Leafy Iron-Rich Foods

Spinach is among the top vegetarian sources of iron-rich foods and provides many health benefits. These green leafy iron-rich foods are low in calories, making them safe for consumption for all. About 100 grams of raw spinach consists of 2.7 mg of iron, or about 15% of the Daily Value. 

Although spinach is among foods high in iron, it is a non-heme iron, which is not easy to absorb. However, spinach also contains a high amount of vitamin C that efficiently boosts iron absorption in the body. This iron-rich food is also abundant in antioxidants known as carotenoids that decrease inflammation, reduce cancer risks and protect the eyes from many diseases. Consuming spinach and leafy green veggies along with fat helps in the absorption of other iron-rich foods and catenoids.

5. Legumes- Another Vegetarian Food Among Good Sources of Iron

Legumes are vegetarian iron-rich foods abundant in other nutrients as well. Some of the most common categories of legumes are beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, and peas—these top among the foods rich in iron. One cup that is 198 grams of cooked lentils consists of 6.6 mg, about 37% of the Daily Value. Beans like black beans and kidney beans are all iron-rich foods. 

In fact, a half-cup which is about 86-gram serving of cooked black beans, provides nearly 1.8 grams of iron or 10% of the Daily Value. 

Along with being an iron-rich food, legumes are also a good source of minerals like magnesium, folate, and potassium.

6. Pumpkin- An Iron-Rich Food in The Form of a Tasty Snack!

Pumpkin seeds are another famous iron-rich food, and a 28 gram serving of pumpkin seeds consists of 2.5 mg of iron, about 14% of the Daily Value. In addition to being a good iron-rich source, pumpkin seeds are also a decent source of vitamin K, manganese, and zinc. 

This iron-rich food even helps in reducing the risks of diabetes, insulin resistance, stress and depression

7. Fortified Cereals- An Ideal Iron-Rich Food for Breakfast 

Replacing fortified cereal with ordinary cereal is a wise decision to incorporate iron-rich food into the breakfast. The amount of iron differs from brand to brand of the cereal. For instance, a cup of raisin bran has 9.39 mg, which makes it a good source of iron. Fortified cereals are also an excellent source of fiber. Hence along with being an excellent iron-rich food, fortified cereals protect against heart diseases and diabetes. 

Also See: Diabetes Prevention Tips

8. Fish- Another Marine Source of Iron-Rich Foods

Fish is a highly nutritious iron-rich food, and certain varieties like tuna have specific iron-rich content. 85 grams of canned tuna serving consists probably 1.4 mg of iron, which is around 8% of the Daily Value. Along with being an iron-rich food, fish is also abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of heart-healthy fat containing a number of health benefits. Fish also has many other essential nutrients, like selenium, niacin, and vitamin B12. Besides tuna fish, haddock, sardines, and mackerel are other examples of iron-rich food sources among fishes that one can also include in the diet. 

9. Dark Chocolate- A Delicious Iron-rich Food 

Dark chocolate is a tempting and nutritious iron-rich food. A 28-gram serving of it contains 3.4 mg of iron, which is about 19% of the daily value. This small serving also contains essential minerals of about 56% and 15% of the Daily values for copper and magnesium, respectively. Along with being an iron-rich food, it also contains prebiotic fiber, which nourishes the gut’s good bacteria. A study found that dark chocolate and cocoa powder are iron-rich foods with more antioxidant activity than juices and powders made from berries and blueberries. 

Studies have also shown that this iron-rich food also has effective benefits for cholesterol and the ability to reduce the risks of heart attacks. It is best to consume chocolate with at least 70% of cocoa to ensure a high flavonoid content and get the maximum benefits.

10. Sesame Seeds- A Nutty Iron-Rich Food 

Iron-rich foods like sesame seeds contain a decent amount of iron. 1.31 mg tablespoon is the iron content in sesame seed along with essential nutrients, like copper, phosphorus, vitamin E, and zinc. An easy way to incorporate this iron-rich food into the diet is to garnish them on a salad or grind with smoothies. Sesame seeds may look small, but these iron-rich foods may prove sufficient to fulfill the daily value of iron.

Iron is a nutrient that the body cannot produce on its own. Hence it is vital to incorporate iron-rich foods into the daily diet to avoid iron deprivation or deficient iron reserves. However, the amount of iron should be regulated, especially heme iron. A too low or too high amount of iron in the body may impact health and even intensify underlying diseases. Iron absorption is also a problem faced by many people. People who eat plant-based iron-rich foods must add vitamin C foods to ensure seamless iron absorption by the body. This is why it becomes important to consult a doctor or a nutritionist to decide upon the daily iron requirements and the appropriate iron-rich foods.

FAQs About Iron Foods 

Q.1 What are the side effects of low iron?

Ans. There are some general to severe symptoms of low iron levels in the body. Low iron reserves may even cause Iron Deficiency anemia. The usual symptoms include fatigue, headache, weakness, breathing problems, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, pale skin, etc.

Q2. How to get more iron in diet?

Ans. The best way to enrich the diet with the necessary nutrient like iron is to add more iron-rich foods to the diet. The selection of the iron-rich food and the iron content in the diet should be decided according to the iron requirements of the person which mainly depends upon the health condition. Consulting a doctor or nutritionist is wise to take this decision. 

Q.3 Which vegetables contain iron?

Ans. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, string beans, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, etc have good iron content. 

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