Have you been feeling lethargic lately, irritable and dizzy? Is your skin pale and your nails brittle? Well then, seems like you could be a little iron deficient. Even if you’re not experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to keep track of your iron intake so that you do not reach such a stage.
Iron is a major component of a compound called hemoglobin in the blood, which helps transport oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. Low hemoglobin levels can be caused by low iron intake in the diet.
Fortunately, mother nature has provided us with a lot of iron-rich foods that you can eat to keep up healthy hemoglobin levels.
Which Foods Are Best For Low Iron
Iron comes in two different types: heme iron found in poultry, fish and other animal products and which is usually easier for the body to absorb, and non-heme iron found in plant products which is harder for the body to absorb.
One of the best sources of protein comes from organ meats such as liver and kidneys. Liver is also rich in folate, a compound that makes it easier for the body to absorb iron. This makes liver one of the superfoods for iron. Other great animal-based sources of liver are seafood like oysters, poultry, and lean beef.
Plant-based iron is non-heme and can be found in leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, and swiss chard; whole grains, especially those in fortified products like cereal; legumes like beans, lentils, and soya; fruits like figs, prunes, and apricots; as well as nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios and pine nuts, including seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Some leafy vegetables like spinach have a high amount of oxalates that inhibit the absorption of iron, so it is not recommended to rely solely on them for your iron intake. Others have a lot of vitamin C that is known to promote iron absorption in the body, such as apples, winter squash, red and green peppers, among others.
Best Iron Rich Foods For Vegetarians
Given that plants contain mostly nonheme iron which the body finds harder to absorb, vegetarians are at greater risk of iron deficiency. However, there are still a lot of great options that they can explore to meet their iron requirements through their diet.
The best source of iron in plants is usually found in legumes. These include lentils, peas, and beans. Another great source is whole grains and whole grains products especially if they have been fortified with iron. These can include bread, cereal cakes, among others.
Nuts are a great source of plant iron. Those with the highest amount of iron include almonds, pistachios, and cashews. Of these, pistachios have the highest amount. Some seeds are also bursting with iron and are a great source, and include pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds.
Leafy green vegetables pack a lot of iron too, such as kale, spinach, swiss chard, and collard greens. Kale is the best source in this category due to its high amount of folic acid that promotes iron intake. Others like spinach have a lot of oxalates that can inhibit the absorption of iron in the body.
Vegetarians need to be very careful with their iron intake and should make sure that they factor it in meal plans. They can also add foods rich in vitamin C that promote the absorption of iron in the body such as citrus fruits, peppers, and apples.
Iron-Rich Foods For Pregnancy
Pregnant women are in a particularly high-risk situation of iron deficiency. This is because the developing baby is making new blood and uses up a lot of it, and iron allocation gives precedence to the baby’s needs. Studies suggest that pregnant women need up to twice the amount of iron compared to an average adult.
For this reason, pregnant women need to eat foods that are packed with iron and folic acid. At the top of the list are dark leafy greens and legumes. The reason for these is that dark green vegetables like kale as well as legumes like lentils and chickpeas contain high amounts of folic acid, which is easily absorbed by the developing baby.
Another excellent food source of iron for pregnant women is animal products. Among these fish rank the highest, including salmon, tuna, haddock, and seafood like oysters and clams. Poultry – that is domesticated birds – like chicken and duck are also great sources of animal vitamin C.
Lean meat and organs from animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats are also vital sources of animal protein that a pregnant woman can consume to keep up her iron levels. These have an advantage over plant-based sources in that they carry heme iron, which is generally better absorbed by the body by a factor of 2 or three.
Best Foods For Anaemia
Anemia is a condition where the body has a very low level of hemoglobin, causing a range of health problems such as dizziness, weakness, paleness of skin among others. While it can be caused by other conditions in the body, it is usually possible to prevent anemia by eating an iron-rich diet.
The best foods for anemic people are those that promote fast uptake of iron in the body. These include animal products like liver, kidney, and tongue, which are the best sources of heme iron. Others are lean beef, fish and seafood, as well as poultry.
There are also plant products that are packed with iron. These include dark leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, kale, and swiss chard, as well as legumes like beans and lentils that also contain folates.
To help with iron absorption, it is important to take a lot of foods rich in vitamin C which promotes its absorption. The best sources of these are citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons. You can also get your daily intake of vitamin C from apples, strawberries, and tomatoes.
When your body is struggling with iron deficiency, the symptoms can be nasty. This is why nature has provided us with a lot of options to get our iron naturally from the food we eat. The heme type of iron is more easily absorbed by the body and can be found in animal products like liver, lean meat, fish and poultry.
You can also get your daily dose of iron from dark leafy greens, legumes like lentils and beans, as well as nuts and seeds. Iron absorption is vastly improved by eating a lot of vitamin C, which can be found in citrus fruits and berries.
Whatever your favorite food is, you can always find a great option to meet your iron needs.