Iron is an essential nutrient that helps carry oxygen through your body. Lack of iron can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, cravings to eat non-food items, susceptibility to illness, and shortness of breath.
Despite it's importance, many people have low iron levels, especially pregnant women. Severe iron deficiency is called anemia, and should be corrected immediately. However, taking supplements to boost iron can cause constipation and nausea, and during pregnancy these side effects tend to be more pronounced. Also, taking too much iron through supplements can result in toxicity and, in extreme overdose, death. The very best and safest way to increase your body's iron level is through an iron-rich diet.
Here is a list of some of the foods that contain the highest amounts of iron:
Dark, leafy greens (spinach, chard, collards, etc)
Beans, lentils, chickpeas
Pregnant women should not consume too much liver due to high amounts of Vitamin A, which can harm the baby. However, all the other foods are fair game and beneficial in more than one area. If you're trying to up the iron in your blood, try to eat iron-containing foods along with those that have high amounts of Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron effectively, so it's a good idea to combine the two.
Here is a list of some good sources of Vitamin C:
Sweet red peppers
One tasty way to combine iron and Vitamin C are green smoothies. Just add a large handful of spinach to a strawberry-banana smoothie and voila! A healthy twist on a common snack. Make sure you blend the spinach in milk before adding the other ingredients or you'll have a slightly grainy drink. Another way is to make a spinach omelet with sauteed red bell peppers. Lastly, try an oriental salad with spinach, slivered almonds, and mandarin oranges. Oh so delicious! Experiment and discover what works for your unique tastebuds.
The fastest way to boost low iron levels though diet is by taking straight Blackstrap Molasses every day. You can mix it into smoothies or oatmeal, but it does have a strong, distinctive flavor that many find unappealing. If this is the case for you, try taking it like medicine: 1-4 large spoonfuls in one sitting. Chase it with a glass of unsweetened orange juice, and you've got the perfect combination. The juice kills the taste, and at the same time helps your body absorb all the iron it possibly can. Give it a try! It sure beats taking pills that cause those unpleasant side effects!