- Iron is an essential nutrient in your diet that is crucial in the production of red blood cells.
- White beans, spinach, meat, and breakfast cereals are great sources of iron.
- Women require more iron (between eight and 27 milligrams daily) than men (eight milligrams).
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Iron is an essential nutrient that you obtain from foods like red meat, because your body cannot produce it on its own. This mineral is essential to the production of red blood cells, the function of muscle cells, and the formation of certain hormones, says Albert Do, MD, a gastroenterologist at Yale Medicine.
Men require around eight milligrams of iron per day, whereas women may require anywhere between eight and 27 milligrams, depending on whether they are pregnant, menstruating, or in menopause.
What causes iron deficiency? How to reduce the risk of anemia
Not consuming enough iron can result in an iron deficiency, which can cause symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, light-headedness, and pallor (or an unhealthy paleness). Known as anemia, this condition can often be cured by getting enough iron through your diet or via iron supplements, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Foods that are rich in iron include meats, seafood, tofu, beans, lentils, breakfast cereals, and dark leafy greens, like spinach.
- Women up to the age of 50: 18 milligrams
- Women above the age of 50: 8 milligrams
- Pregnant women: 27 milligrams
- Men: 8 milligrams
You may require iron supplements if you have anemia, or if you are at risk of developing anemia. According to Do, these are some circumstances that may require supplementation:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Aftermath of surgery
- Certain medical conditions, like kidney failure, for instance
- Chronic blood loss, caused by a tumor or stomach ulcer, for example
However, Do says that mild cases of iron deficiency may not require supplements; adding plenty of iron to your diet can help correct the problem.
Since women have higher iron requirements and are more prone to blood loss due to menstruation, following an iron-rich diet is important to prevent anemia.
Two types of dietary iron:
- Heme iron: Heme iron is found in meats, poultry, and seafood. Your body is better able to absorb this form of iron.
- Non-heme iron: Plant-based foods contain non-heme iron, which is harder for your body to absorb. According to a 2008 study, your body can only absorb 2% to 20% of the non-heme iron you consume; whereas it is able to absorb 15% to 35% of the heme iron in your food. Vitamin C helps improve the absorption of non-heme iron, so you should pair plant-based iron with foods like oranges, lemon juice, and peppers to maximize iron absorption.
Oysters are high in iron and tasty to have raw.
Alexander Spatari/ Getty Images
Oysters are considered to be very heart healthy, because they’re low-calorie, high-protein meats. In fact, the American Heart Association says eating two servings of non-fried fish and shellfish every week can help reduce your risk of
Oysters also offer several nutrients, including:
Other forms of seafood, like sardines, scallops, clams, shrimp, tuna, mackerel, and haddock are also good sources of iron.
Beef is high in iron, but opt for a leaner cut.
Cavan Images/Getty Images
Beef is a rich source of iron; beef liver and organ meats are especially high in iron. If you’re not fond of those pieces, you should opt for low-fat ground beef or lean cuts of grass-fed beef that have less saturated fat and cholesterol than prime cuts, such as:
- Beef round
Other forms of meat and poultry, like chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, and egg are also good sources of iron.
White beans are a great vegetarian source of iron.
Witthaya Prasongsin/ Getty Images
White beans are a good source of iron and protein, and they also offer a lot of fiber. Fiber helps improve your cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, and digestion, so it’s an important addition to your diet. You can add white beans to soups and salads, or to grains like quinoa. Pairing them with peppers or adding a dash of lemon juice can add vitamin C to your meal and help improve the absorption of iron. Other beans, like kidney beans, also contain iron.
Whole grain cereal is fortified with many vitamins like vitamin A, D, B, and calcium.
Janos Mladonyiczki / EyeEm/ Getty Images
Breakfast cereals are usually fortified with several nutrients, including:
Opt for whole grain cereals with more fiber and less sugar like Wheaties, Fiber One Original Bran and Quaker Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares. to cut down on calories and stay full for longer. Other fortified foods like breads and grains also contain iron.
Lentils are high in fiber, protein, and vitamins.
Kate Brittle/ Getty Images
Like beans, lentils and chickpeas are a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals like iron, especially for people who follow plant-based diets. Mediterranean, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines offer several recipes you can try, like lentil salad, curry, and hummus.
Spinach is a leafy green rich in vitamins
Nevena Zdravic / EyeEm/ Getty Images
Spinach is a rich source of iron and is super easy to include in your diet. You can put it in smoothies and salads, eat it as a side with your meal, and add it to pasta and grain dishes.
Other dark green leaves and vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, chard, collard greens, and dandelion greens are also good sources of iron.
Tofu is made of soybeans which is a low calorie and high protein option.
Nevena Zdravic / EyeEm/ Getty Images
Tofu is made of soybeans, which are also rich in iron. Unlike meat, tofu is a low-calorie, low-fat source of protein that is vegan and vegetarian-friendly. It’s also extremely versatile and can be prepared several different ways as a meat substitute in stir fries and soups or as a tasty addition to salads.
Iron is an essential mineral that can be found in several meats, beans, lentils, and vegetables. Eating an iron-rich diet and pairing your plant-based iron with vitamin C-rich foods can help prevent and treat anemia, although you may need iron supplements if you have elevated iron requirements. You should consult your doctor or a nutritionist about your iron requirements if you’re concerned.
Constipation is a common side effect of taking iron supplements, although it can be treated with medication. Consuming too much iron can also lead to health problems like
, heart disease and liver disease, since the excess iron is deposited in places like the liver, heart, skin, and hormonal organs, such as the pancreas and pituitary gland, says Do.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.