Iron is probably the most important mineral our body needs. It’s not like that we can survive without other elements but iron has roles which can not be replaced with something else. Iron is essential in delivering oxygen to the different tissues in the body.
It is an integral part of the molecule hemoglobin which delivers oxygen to organs. In the form of myoglobin, it holds oxygen reserve for times when we need urgent oxygen supply like when we are exercising. Other than this major role, iron also serves as a catalyst in numerous biochemical reactions vital for human life.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most commonly seen nutritional deficiency in adults. The risk for IDA is significantly higher in females of reproductive age groups. Pregnant females are more prone to the IDA because of high hemodilution of the blood.Common symptoms of Anemia is pale conjunctiva, pale skin, early fatigue, breathlessness, dizziness, sore tongue, brittle nails etc. Iron deficiency anemia may go to the point where it may endanger your life, requiring an immediate blood transfusion. Thus it is crucial to keep good iron reserves in the body.
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Though there can be a lot of sources of iron, it can take a while to complete the daily need and refill the iron reserve in the body if you are sticking to the traditional iron sources. I have compiled a list of iron rich foods that you must include in your diet.
Top 10 Iron Rich Foods
Recommended daily allowance for iron varies with age. In children aged 2-11 yrs, it is around 13.5 to 15 mg/day, in older children aged 12-19 yrs, it is about 16.5 mg/day. In adults, value varies significantly with gender. While males require 19.1 to 20 mg iron per day, females need 17 – 18.9 mg iron per day. Pregnant females have different needs and so is their RDA values for iron. They need approx. 15 mg iron daily.
Other than RDA, heme and non heme iron is also a significant part which you need to know about in iron deficiency anemia. There is only one significant difference between both of them one is availed by non veg means – the heme iron and another is availed by vegetarian diet – heme iron. Heme iron is easily accessible to body due to its easy absorption being 30% absorption while only 2-10% of non heme iron is absorbed from vegetarian diet.
1. Liver Meat For Iron
Liver meat may be the best source of iron with associated benefits of high protein content, minerals and vitamins. However, if you are suffering from diabetes or some form of dyslipidemia then it is better to move on to the other sources of iron as the liver is also known to be a rich source of cholesterol.
Preferred liver meat is pork liver. It is lean, has a high amount of protein, vitamin C and much more. In case pork liver is not available then the next best choice is beef liver. it provides 3 mg of iron in one regular serving. In the end, it really doesn’t matter which liver you are eating, because whichever it is, it will soon start filling up your iron reserve.
2. Seafood For Iron
Seafood or to be precise clams, oysters etc. are extremely rich sources of iron following liver meat. Clams and oysters are recommended pretty much by every dietitian, who knows his job, towards an IDA patient. A single serving of oysters provides about 7.8 mg of iron.
If oysters or clams are not accessible to you, then don’t be disappointed. Any seafood is essentially rich in iron. You can choose from salmon, tuna, haddock and a whole load of edible fishes.
3. Fortified Cereals For Iron
Cereal is often the first choice for breakfast for so many people. Cereals itself is considered a good source of iron, however, if you go for the fortified cereal, there is a good chance that you might get all your daily iron allowance from just breakfast.
Fortified cereals are commercially raised products where cereals are fortified to enhance its nutritional value in term of micronutrients, minerals etc. With different brands, quality and quantity of fortification differs. Some of the brands may contain a high amount of irons while it may be absent in other fortified cereal( however chances of that happening is less).
So choose your product wisely after ensuring the nutritional value of the cereal and have a bowl in the early morning.
4. Spinach For Iron
It would be rude to talk about spinach and not mention Popeye – our hero – who with handful of spinach can grow up a mount of muscles. It may be an exaggeration but it is not a complete lie. Iron, other than hemoglobin, is a part of myoglobin – a protein essentially present in our muscles.
Spinach have rich iron content along with lots of fibers. A single regular serving provides about 3 mg of iron. It is a rich source of vitamins too. It keeps a clean digestive tract and avoids constipation. It also helps in losing weight. All in all, including spinach in your dietary plan is going to benefit you extensively.
5. Beans For Iron
Beans are known for their rich protein content but did you know that they also are a rich source of iron. Indeed a single serving of any beans – be it pulses, white beans etc. provides 3-4 mg iron. Boiled beans are considered best for this as the nutritional value of boiled beans is superior to cooked beans.
Beans come as quite a relief for vegans. They not only substitute meat for iron but also for protein. They also have a lot many options so you can choose as much as you want. White beans are preferable over others as they have a large iron reserve in them providing about 8 mg iron per serving. So add pulses or beans to your diet even if you are healthy.
6. Pumpkin Seeds For Iron
Eating a pumpkin? Saved pumpkin seeds from the Halloween time? Then you obviously are on the right track. Pumpkin seeds are an extremely rich source of iron and they are better preferred raw by dietitians than roasted. A single proper serving of pumpkin seed may provide as much as 30% of the daily iron requirement.
Thus I don’t think I am exaggerating when I suggest that they should be made mandatory part of breakfast. If you are reluctant in eating them raw then add them to some muffin recipe, sprinkle them over the salad. They will be quite satisfying once you had them.
7. Chocolate For Iron
I know even if I advised against it you are gonna have your fair share of chocolate. Don’t worry I am in favor of chocolates when we are talking about iron. You will be surprised to know that chocolate is not that much of a devil as some of the people made it out to be. It has protein, vitamin, calcium, iron and many other minerals.
A 100 gm serving of chocolate contains about 2.5 mg of iron. I know you don’t need convincing and you will soon add up more chocolate in your diet than necessary but try to hold back. Take it as side and in addition to other sources of iron. This way you will be saved from harmful side effects of too much chocolate.
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8. Nuts For Iron
Nuts unlike all the above can be taken as snacks. Rather it will be better if you replaced your usual snacks with nuts. Nuts like almonds, hazelnut, cashew, pine nuts etc. are extremely rich in their iron content. Them may look small but they are nutritionally packed. A single serving of nuts can provide about 10% of daily iron requirement.
Nuts are best in their raw form. If they are available to you then choose them over the shop bought nuts. If not then shop nuts are not much lesser in their iron reserve. Take a handful of nut and chew them over the course of day or you can add them to your regular routine breakfast.
9. Eggs For Iron
Some people ask, do eggs have iron? Eggs are often the first choice for breakfast in the non-vegetarian community. They are easy to make and have a lot of nutritional potential in them. They are a rich source of iron, protein, calcium and a long list of vitamins.
100 g egg provides about 1.2 mg of iron. Though not huge but it can fulfill our daily requirement. In simpler terms 2 eggs a day with other iron rich source should be enough for fulfilling the daily iron needs. As it is a source of heme iron, it is readily absorbed thus increasing its bio-availability.
10. Brussels Sprouts For Iron
Since our childhood, Brussels were our worst nightmares and there was no way around it. Moms were quite insistent about eating them. Today we know why. Brussels being green vegetables are not only rich in vitamins and add high fiber to diet but also are a rich source of iron. A single serving or Brussels sprout provides about 5% of daily iron requirement.
If you are still childish about these green buddies(and I know some of us are) then grow up and add Brussels to your regular diet. Its time you start caring about your health and be a healthy grown up.
These were the top 10 best iron sources of diet there can be, add these to your diet with your chosen preference and at least complete the recommended dietary allowance. If you are a known anemic with iron deficiency than add these to your diet and consult a physician about iron supplements.
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