Iron rich foods
What is iron?
Many foods contain iron, a mineral which is required by our bodies to make many functions happen. Most noticeably, iron transports oxygen into the lungs, enabling the muscles to store and use oxygen. When the body doesn't contain enough hemoglobin which is a metallprotein found in red blood cells then the body can become anaemic.
Symptoms of anaemia include tiredness, a general sense of lethargy and a shortness of breath.You could also get a headache, a sore tongue, suffer with tinnitus, hair loss, feeling itchy or have difficulty swallowing.
This is why iron is important and if we don't get enough then it can be detrimental to the body. Thankfully there are plenty of foods rich in iron which will benefit the body if consumed on a regular basis.
Liver, beef heart, beef, pork and lamb are all red meats which are high in iron. A 3 oz. serving of liver contains 7.5mg, while the same serving of beef contains 5.1mg and a 3 oz. serving of pork contains 2.7mg.
It's thought that red meats have high iron levels because animal flesh more readily absorbs these minerals.
If you have an iron deficiency you might want to consider eating red meat as it can be a good source of iron as well as zinc which helps to stimulate enzymes in the body into activity in a wide range of processes such as wound healing, supporting a healthy immune system and synthesizing DNA.
If you're a vegetarian - don't worry! There are plenty of other sources you can get it from.
Eggs and egg yolks
If you don't eat meat but you do eat eggs, then you'll be pleased to know that these can be high in iron too. One egg contains about 80 calories and 1.0mg of iron. It's the egg yolk which contains most of the fat-soluble vitamins as well as the essential fatty acids.
An egg yolk contains 0.4mg of iron compared to the egg white which has 0.03mg, meaning that 93.8% of the iron comes from the yolk compared to just 6.2% in the egg white
If you want to uptake your iron levels, try adding eggs for breakfast, eating them poached on toast or in an omelette.
Dark green leafy vegetables
A good source of iron can be found in spinach as well as kale and other dark green vegetables. Half a cup of cooked spinach contains 2.0mg of iron and only 25 calories, making it a good source of iron if you're looking for a low-fat option option to suit your vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
You might also want to consider green peas which contain 1.2mg of iron per half cup, while lima beans contain 2.5mg of iron per half cup.
Iron-enriched cereals and grains
Cereals which are high in iron include oatmeal which has 1.7mg of iron per 1 cup, while brands such as Kelloggs Special K include 2.5mg of iron per 1 cup.
For those who have a Vitamin D deficiency however, it's worth noting that brands like Kelloggs recently added Vitamin D to their cereals such as Coco Pops and Rice Krisipes to help fights rickets in young people.
Cereals can also be high in folic acid, which along with Vitamin B12 and iron, enables the body to produce more red blood cells. That's why a lack of folic acid can also cause anaemia.
Try eating cereals which are low in sugar and high in fiber - this generally means porridge, oatmeal and less sugary cereals. If you prefer your cereal to be sweet, trying add a touch of honey or better yet, fresh fruit.
Nuts and seeds, beans and lentils
Sunflower seed kernels are an exceptionally good source of iron, containing 8.0mg of iron for every 4oz, while sesame seeds contain 2.8mg for every 4oz.
Peanuts are another exceptional source, containing 3.2mg of iron per half cup.
If you're looking to add iron instantly to your meal, beans and lentils are a good choice. White beans and soy beans contain 2.7mg of iron per half cup, while lentils contain 1.5 mg per half cup.
Lentils can be a good substitute for meat if you're looking for a way to get iron into your diet without eating animal flesh. This is because they can be used to 'fill' meals such as moussaka, soups, stews, lasagna and so forth.
Iron deficiency doesn't have to be something to worry about if you're adding these foods to your diet. No matter what your diet - whether you eat meat or you're a long term vegan, you don't have to compromise your lifestyle choices to avoid being iron deficient.
Hopefully this article has shown you a wide choice of foods rich in iron and the abundant number of choices we can make to ensure that we're absorbing iron so we can remain at the pinnacle of health.