Iron is an extremely important mineral, as your body needs it to produce red blood cells and to carry oxygen. When iron is deficient in your diet, it causes anemia, dizziness, irritability, headaches and fatigue. On average, you need to consume 18 milligrams of it daily, but the requirement varies depending on your age and gender.
For example, men should consume 21 mg. Women who are menstruating should consume 18 milligrams of iron per day. For pregnant women, this figure reaches 35 milligrams per day.
The food you eat can provide two types of iron – heme and non-heme. Poultry, fish and meat are some good sources of heme iron. In this form, your body can more easily absorb the minerals, making it easier to increase their levels.
The second type, non-heme, comes from plant-based foods such as nuts, vegetables and fruits. Although this type of absorption is a bit more difficult, eating foods rich in vitamin C can help.
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8 iron-rich foods to include in your diet
Add mineral-rich foods to your diet, and improve your overall iron intake. Here is a list of foods that can help you do that:
1. Fruits Rich in Iron
Fruits like mulberries and olives should be included in your diet, as they contain a good amount of iron. For every 100 grams of olives you consume, you get 3.3 milligrams of this important mineral, which is 18% of your daily requirement. They also provide vitamins E and A, good fats, fiber, and reduce the risk of suffering from heart diseases, making them a wonderful addition to your diet.
Mulberries have good nutritional value, as you get 1.9 milligrams of the mineral for every 100 grams, which is a large part of your daily requirement. When it comes to vitamin C, you get 85% of your dietary needs. Thanks to the presence of antioxidants, these iron-rich fruits protect your body from certain types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
You can also take prune juice, which is consumed to help deal with constipation. One cup of prune juice (237 ml) gives you 3 mg of iron, which is 17% of your daily requirement. They are also rich in manganese, vitamin B6, fiber, vitamin C and potassium.
2. Iron Rich Whole Grains
In addition to many other nutrients, whole grains are also rich in iron. They offer a wide range of health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
One cup of cooked quinoa will give you 2.8 milligrams of iron, which is equal to 16% of your daily need. In addition, gluten-free, quinoa is also rich in a plethora of nutrients such as minerals, complex carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins and fiber.
A single serving of oats provides you with 3.4 milligrams of this nutrient, which is about 19% of your daily requirement. At the same time, it provides folate, magnesium, fiber, zinc and protein. Because of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber, you feel full after consuming oats. In addition, it boosts your gut health and lowers blood sugar levels.
However, one should note that whole grains, not processed grains, are healthier options. During the processing of grains, manufacturers remove the parts that contain minerals, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants.
3. Iron Rich Leafy Greens
Include beet greens, collards, Swiss chard, kale and spinach in your diet. For each serving, you can get anywhere from 2.5 to 6.4 milligrams of iron, which is 14% to 36% of your daily requirement. Supplement these leafy greens with healthy fats, such as olive oil, to help your body absorb the carotenoids.
4. Iron Rich Legumes
One serving of lentils (after cooking) can provide you with 6.6 milligrams of the mineral, or 37% of your daily requirement. Likewise, all legumes are a great way to maintain iron levels in your body. Soybeans, lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas are some of the foods that fall into this category.
They are also good sources of potassium, folate and magnesium. Since they contain high amounts of fiber, you will feel full for longer. As a result of this, your calorie intake will decrease, which will help you lose weight.
5. Iron Rich Red Meat
Red meat is a great source of heme iron, which lowers the risk of suffering from deficiencies. If you are prone to anemia, it is important that you consume red meat regularly. A single serving of ground beef, a type of red meat, can provide you with 2.7 milligrams of iron, or 15% of your daily requirement.
It also contains B vitamins, selenium, protein and zinc, which makes it nutritious at the same time. there was a study A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that women who ate meat after aerobic exercise retained iron better than those who consumed its supplements.
6. Pumpkin Seeds Rich in Iron
A good source of vitamin K, zinc and manganese, these seeds are also rich in iron. A 28-gram serving of pumpkin seeds contains 4.2 milligrams of the mineral, which is 23% of the required daily intake.
In addition, the seeds are also rich in magnesium. Thus, it also helps in reducing the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Easy to carry around, pumpkin seeds are a great food to snack on any time of day.
7. Iron Rich Dark Chocolate
A single serving of dark chocolate can meet about 19% of your daily iron requirement. In addition, you get magnesium, copper and prebiotic fiber, which is also very good for your health.
Another reason to include dark chocolate in your diet is its antioxidant content, which protects your cells from free radicals. Make sure the dark chocolate you choose has more than 60% cocoa to get the best results.
Flavanols, a compound in chocolate, are responsible for all of its positive health benefits. Replace your milk chocolate with their dark variant. Rich in a range of minerals, they are delicious and nutritious at the same time.
8. Broccoli Rich in Iron
A 1-cup serving of cooked broccoli contains 1 mg of iron, which is 6% of a person’s required daily intake. Therefore, the vegetable is a very good source of the mineral.
An extremely nutritious vegetable, broccoli is also rich in fiber and vitamins, C and K. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts contain plant compounds known to be protective against cancer.
health benefits of iron
The health benefits of iron are often overlooked unless the mineral is deficient. Consuming the foods mentioned earlier has many health benefits, and we have listed some of them:
strong immune system
Since iron promotes the production of red blood cells, they repair cells and tissues, and therefore, improve the body’s immunity. Having the right amount of mineral in the body helps in fighting many types of infections and diseases. Consuming iron in the right amount daily improves the immunity of the body.
better muscle strength
There is a close relationship between muscle weakness and iron deficiency. Consuming enough iron-rich foods helps to provide the oxygen needed for muscle contraction.
Low iron intake increases the chances of muscle fatigue. Its deficiency can also lead to inflammation of the muscle tissue, which increases the level of pain. Thus, pain can be reduced by increasing the consumption of the mineral.
better cognitive function
One of the many benefits of iron is better brain function. About 20% of the blood oxygen is used by the brain and this oxygen supply is aided by it. Therefore, the consumption of the mineral directly affects the health of the brain and its functions.
Proper blood flow to the brain stimulates brain activity and prevents cognitive disorders, making iron intake a key to good brain health.
It is important that the fetus has an adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen to support its development. For this reason, the body requires a higher amount of iron to meet the demand. When you eat foods that are great sources of the mineral, it increases the production of red blood cells and the volume of blood.
A pregnant woman’s body will make it a point to increase the absorption of iron. However, iron deficiency can occur due to lack of intake of foods rich in iron or due to other reasons.
Low amounts of the mineral can increase the chances of low birth weight or premature birth. Also, it can impair the behavioral or cognitive development of the newborn. Ensuring adequate iron intake during pregnancy will keep both mother and baby healthy.
better athletic performance
Athletes, especially women, have a higher risk of iron deficiency than those who do not lead active lives. Its deficiency is not a good sign, as it lowers your performance making you vulnerable to many diseases.
Also, during periods of physical exertion, you will not be able to push your body to its limits. There is not enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen to your muscles. If you are participating in long-distance running or other types of endurance activities, you should eat more iron-rich foods than usual.
Since it is necessary to make hemoglobin, a deficiency of the mineral iron can lead to low levels of red blood cells in the body. Low levels of hemoglobin in your body mean that your tissues and muscles will have less oxygen to function. This can lead to a condition called anemia.
While there are different types of anemia, iron deficiency anemia is the most common worldwide. Although poor diet is the most common cause of deficiency, inflammatory bowel disease, increased needs during pregnancy and excessive bleeding can also cause it.
Following are some symptoms of iron deficiency in the body:
- unusual headache
- headache or dizziness
- difficulty breathing
- dry and damaged hair or skin
- heart palpitation
- restless legs
- Swelling and soreness of the mouth and tongue
Including iron-rich foods is the best way to improve the intake of the mineral. Adding more iron to your diet can help you improve cognitive function, muscle strength and your immune system, among many other health benefits.
Similarly, ignoring these foods can lead to its deficiency. This can lead to a condition called anemia, where your muscles and tissues become depleted of oxygen. Lastly, improve your diet by including the foods mentioned above, and reap the many benefits of consuming iron.