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Iron is a crucial part of our daily diet and probably the most common deficiency among menstruating females. Fortunately, there are plenty of iron-rich foods that you can incorporate into your diet to improve your nutritional health, iron intake, and energy levels. This article will cover what foods are high in iron and why getting iron from food is so important.

Why Iron Is a Vital Part of Your Diet? Iron plays a critical role in a variety of bodily functions. Most importantly, iron makes up hemoglobin, a transport molecule that red blood cells use to deliver oxygen to the tissue throughout your body. Oxygen is one of the most important cellular respiration and energy production factors. Your body also needs iron, like the active thyroid hormone, to make important hormones. As one might imagine, an iron deficiency can lead to several adverse health ramifications. An iron deficiency may result in several potentially severe symptoms that can negatively affect your daily life. Anemia is the most common condition associated with iron deficiency and is impactful. Here are a few of the symptoms those with anemia may experience:

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Chest pain

The best way to avoid anemia is by getting the right amount of iron with an iron-rich diet.

Heme vs Non-Heme Sources You’ll hear a lot about iron ‘bioavailability’, meaning how readily available or absorbable the iron is in the food that you’re consuming. Heme iron comes solely from animal-based sources, such as meat, poultry and seafood. Heme iron tends to be more easily absorbed than non-heme plant-based sources. The National Institutes for Health (NIH) suggested that a solely plant based diet requires double the daily iron intake compared to those eating meat (1). The guidelines from the NIH for daily iron intake are as follows (1): Nonpregnant Women ages 19 to 50 18 milligrams (mg) Pregnant Women 27 mg For women Age 51 and Older, 8 mg For men Age 19 and Older, 8 mg Infants and Children 7 to 16 mg, depending on age Sources of Iron-Rich Foods If you want to enhance your diet with iron, you’ll be happy to know that many iron-rich foods are affordable and delicious. While not high in iron, some foods, like citrus fruits, will help you absorb more iron from your meals since vitamin C aids irons transport across the gut. Here are some foods that can boost your body’s iron levels. Oysters, mussels and Clams If you love to splurge on fresh seafood, you’ll be happy to know that the price tag has great nutritional benefits. According to the USDA, six medium oysters come with a whopping 6.1 mg of elemental iron, a 3rd of a woman’s daily intake. Shrimp and crab are great, too, providing between 2-3 mg per 3 oz serving. Important to note this would not be advisable for pregnant women due to the increased risks of infection from raw foods. Dark Leafy Greens Dark leafy greens are always a go-to plan based sources of iron. 100g of boiled spinach provides 1.6mg of non-heme iron, whereas broccoli provides approximately 1mg per 100g serving. Broccoli is also high in vitamin C, which can help the body to absorb the non-heme iron it contains. Red Meat Red meat, pork chops, and especially organ meats like liver and giblets make for a fantastic source of iron. Red meat serves up around 3-4 mg per 100g depending on the source, whereas organ meats are closer to 6 mg per 100g serving (although not everyones cup of tea). These sources are also high in saturated fat and can raise cholesterol levels, so they should be eaten in rotation and as part of a balanced diet. Dark Chocolate If you need more iron in your diet, dark chocolate is a good source of iron. Dark chocolate has 8 mg per 100 g serving!!! You’re welcome. Eggs Along with fortified cereals and oats, eggs make a great way to kickstart your iron intake in the morning, giving you about 1 mg per serving. Legumes Legumes and other kinds of beans, like black beans and kidney beans, are reliable sources of iron. While they're all non-heme sources, they contain up to 2 mg per 100g serving. Let's not forget about tofu, which lends up to 5.4 mg per 100g! Eating a Balanced, Iron-Rich Diet Fortunately, there are many iron-rich foods that you can easily incorporate into your diet. While taking other nutritional needs into account, the best source of iron for you can be something you love to eat regularly. Nutrition is essential to everybody aspect, so you’ll want to ensure you get what you need. To learn more about testing your iron and determining possible correlations to your symptoms, contact Dr. Courtney Holmberg, Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, at (647) 351-7282 today to book a consultation.​ References:


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