15 High Iron Foods For Optimal Health
Iron isn’t exactly the first thing people think about when they reflect on their health. Yet over 10 million people in the United States alone have iron levels that are in the low category. To take it a step further, over 5 million people in the US are diagnosed with iron levels so low that they’re classified as being deficient in iron, or otherwise known as anemic. [R] Let's get into what iron is, what an iron deficiency is, why you should care, and what are 15 high iron foods for optimal health.
What Is An Iron Deficiency
An iron deficiency in the body happens when iron levels are insufficient to support the natural process and production of red blood cells (erythrocytes). These red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and found in the blood. Deficiencies are diagnosed typically by symptoms and blood test results conducted at a lab facility. An iron deficiency, in short, just means that you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells in the body at one time. Iron deficiencies can be treated and tested for quite easily in developed nations, like here in the US, however in other undeveloped areas of the world, iron deficiency is common and often goes untreated and undiagnosed, especially in women and children. [R]
What Happens When Iron Is Low
When your iron levels are low, your red blood cells are low. When your red blood cells are low they are unable to carry oxygen (hemoglobin) to the areas of your body that need it most. You may experience things like lethargy, tiredness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
What Causes Iron Deficiency
The most common causes of iron deficiency is from bleeding, trauma, or injury. When this happens a lot of blood loss can happen at once or over time, leading to a loss of iron and resulting in anemia. Other common causes of iron deficiency include GI bleeding, GI issues or diseases like ulcers, hernias, and cancer, menstruation, or an inability to absorb iron. Aside from something being wrong, another major cause of iron deficiency can come from our dietary choices. When we don’t eat enough foods that have iron in them we don’t get what we need for our bodies to do their job.
How Much Iron Do You Need Each Day
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the daily recommended amount of iron for adults is:
- 8 milligrams (mg) a day for men
- 18 mg a day for premenopausal women
- 8 mg a day for postmenopausal women
- 27 mg a day for pregnant women
- 9 mg for lactating women
Iron Supplements vs Food
Unless your doctor tells you that you need an Iron supplement it is often not recommended to take one because it is so easy to ‘over do it’. Most of our iron needs can be met from the foods that we eat. Yes, a supplement might be necessary, but often times it is not. It is always recommended to consult a physician before taking a supplement on your own.
10 High Iron Foods For Optimal Health
While vegetarians are at more of a risk to become iron deficient, the amount of iron in our diet, and the quality of our iron absorption, is going to depend on your diet as a whole. Some foods can encourage or discourage the absorption of iron. Things that can reduce iron uptake in the bowel are substances such as tannins (e.g. in red wine or black and green tea), oxalic acid (e.g. in spinach, beetroot, rhubarb and cocoa), phytate (e.g. in cereals) and phosphate (e.g. in processed cheese slices and spreads). Wheat bran, dairy products, soy products and coffee also contain substances that reduce iron uptake. [R] You can increase iron absorption from food by combining different foods, such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) found in foods like oranges, orange juice, broccoli and red peppers, with other things like meat, fish, and poultry. [R] Below are 10 high iron foods for optimal health found in a common diet.
5.1 mg iron / 150g serving
3.9 mg iron / 150g serving
1.8 mg iron / 100g serving
1.3 mg iron / 130g serving
2.7 mg iron / 60g serving
6. Fortified Cereal (i.e. Corn Flakes)
8.1 mg iron / 28g serving
7. Chanterelle Mushrooms
11.6 mg iron / 200g serving
4.6 mg iron / 150g serving
4.4 mg iron / 60g serving
3.8 mg iron / 60g serving
1.3 mg iron / 125g serving
2.8 mg iron / 100g serving
13. Whole Grain Rice
1.9 mg iron / 180g serving
14. Whole Grain Pasta (boiled)
1.6 mg iron / 125g serving
15. Beef, Veal, and Pork Liver (125g = 9.7-24.4 mg iron)
9.7-24.4mg iron / 125g serving
High Iron Foods: Takeaway
Not incorporating enough high iron foods into your diet can leave you feeling lethargic, tired, and even short of breath. This can not only get in the way of every day life, but can keep you from performing every day at your very best, moving with ease, and maintaining optimal health. By incorporating whole food sources from a variety of categories, like meat, fish, grains, fruits, and vegetables, you can not only meet your daily iron intake needs, but feel better with every passing day.
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