Iron is vital for the human body, and deficiency can cause various diseases such as anemia. In addition, iron is a crucial component of hemoglobin that transports oxygen in red blood cells. According to WHO, iron deficiency is the most common body deficiency globally, especially among kids and pregnant women. This is because minerals play several critical roles in the body.
Food contains two types of iron- heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron is in meat, poultry, and fish. You absorb up to 30% of the heme iron that you consume. Therefore, eating meat generally boosts your iron. Non-heme iron is present in plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables. Foods with non-heme iron are still a crucial part of a well-balanced diet, but the iron in these foods won’t completely absorb in the body. Instead, you absorb between 2% to 10% of the non-heme iron that you consume.
Iron deficiency in people is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies and the leading cause of anemia in the United States.
You Can Know You’re Iron Deficient If You Have These Symptoms:
- Pale Skin And Fingernails
- Glossitis (Inflamed Tongue)
Sources Of Iron
The Best Plant Sources Of Iron Are:
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables Such As Spinach
- Beans And Lentils
- Baked Potatoes
- Whole-grain And Enriched Bread
- Fortified Breakfast Cereals
Spinach provides many health benefits. About 3.5 ounces of raw spinach contain 2.7 mg of iron or 15% of the DV. Although this is non-heme iron, spinach is also rich in vitamin C; this is essential as vitamin C significantly boosts iron absorption. Spinach is also rich in antioxidants which may reduce your cancer risk, protect your eyes from disease, and decrease inflammation.
Eating spinach and other leafy greens helps your body get a good amount of carotenoids. Make sure to eat healthy fat like olive oil with spinach. Spinach provides 15% of the daily value for iron per serving, along with several vitamins and minerals. It also contains essential antioxidants.
Legumes are full of nutrients. For example, they’re a great source of iron, where one cup of cooked lentils contains 6.6 mg, which is 37% of the daily value. The most common legumes are beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, and peas. Beans like kidney beans, navy beans, and black beans help quickly to increase your iron intake. Additionally, legumes may help you lose weight because they’re very high in soluble fiber, increasing feelings of fullness and reducing calorie intake.
Chickpeas provide 3.7 mg of iron per cup per the USDA, making them an excellent source of iron. In addition, they deliver plant-based protein of 14.6 g per cup. However, as animal products are iron sources, that doesn’t mean plant-based food can’t help you meet your goal.
Chickpeas are a tasty addition to various dishes like pasta and salad, and they can be a fantastic way to mix up salsa. Also, adding lemon juice to your chickpeas hummus will increase the vitamin C in the snack and help your body absorb the non-heme iron in the legumes. When you eat iron-rich food with vitamin C–rich foods, it enhances your body’s ability to absorb the iron.
Soybeans are a perfect protein source in vegetarian diets. Try eating meat with soybeans, or add dried versions to salads to add a nutritious side to the texture in main dishes. In addition, these nutrient-dense legumes have various other benefits, including iron content. A half-cup serving contains 4.54 mg of iron.
Lentils are similar to beans and contain similar amounts of iron. Therefore, they are perfect while seeking a quick fix of iron to meet the daily requirement as lentils cook more quickly than beans. A half-cup serving contains 6.25 mg of iron.
Quinoa is a popular food for iron. One cup provides 2.8 mg of iron Moreover, quinoa contains no gluten, making it a good choice for celiac disease patients or other forms of gluten intolerance. It is also higher in protein than other grains and rich in magnesium, folate, manganese, copper, and many other nutrients. Plus, quinoa has more antioxidant activity and helps protect your cells from damage from free radicals formed during metabolism and in response to stress.
Broccoli is rich in iron and vitamin C, which boosts the absorption of iron. So, it is one of the best foods you can eat. It also has a lot of fiber, making it a whole food for people to lose weight. Adding broccoli to your regular diet is an excellent start as it is also an excellent source of vitamin K.
Adding any one of these foods into your regular diet will increase your daily iron intake. Iron is an essential mineral that you must regularly consume as your body cannot produce it independently. You can also try the iron supplement if, for any reason, you are unable to meet your daily iron requirement from food alone.
Iron supplements can benefit you to receive enough iron, which you’re not getting enough from regular meals. Also, remember to follow supplement dose carefully. An excess of iron can also cause iron toxicity. Eat a nutritious diet that includes good sources of iron to prevent any iron deficiencies. Mix all vegetarian sources of iron with vitamin C in the same dish to receive maximum benefits.