Dietary iron supports overall health and well-being. Your body needs a wide range of vitamins and minerals to function optimally…

Dietary iron supports overall health and well-being.

Your body needs a wide range of vitamins and minerals to function optimally every day, and that means eating a varied and balanced diet rich in whole foods that contain a lot of nutrients.

Iron is a nutrient that you should try to consume every day. Janette Wong, a dietitian enrolled in the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California, says that while the body needs only small amounts of iron, “iron deficiency in some people’s diets is still a common issue.”

Laura Bishop-Simo, a dietitian enrolled at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, says your body uses iron to complete a range of metabolic tasks, including:

– Helps distribute oxygen to every cell.

– Helps remove carbon dioxide from cells in the lungs where it can be excreted out of the body.

– Supports metabolic function, growth and immune system.

– Hemoglobin production.

To help illustrate how iron works, Wong says think of a tiny little car that floats inside your body. “You can think of iron as the seats in a car and hemoglobin as the car, allowing oxygen and carbon dioxide – passengers – to travel along your bloodstream and to their final destination, the lung cells.”

Iron depletion can become anemia.

The body can store iron when needed, but if your tank starts to run out, it can lead to an iron deficiency, Wong says. “Iron deficiency develops in stages. The final stage is iron deficiency anemia. At this point, the iron reserves in your body are severely depleted, resulting in low hemoglobin levels, and thus less oxygen is sent to the cells for energy production. “

Signs of iron deficiency or anemia may include:

– Apathy.

– Fatigue.

– Headache.

– Pale skin.

– Poor resistance to cold temperatures.

– Weakness.

She adds that “iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies and the leading cause of anemia in the United States.”

It’s most common among women of childbearing age, as iron is lost during menstruation and pregnancy, but anyone can develop an iron deficiency if their diet does not provide enough to meet their daily needs.

Sources of iron from animals versus plants

Bishop-Simo explains that there are two types of iron that the body can use from the foods you eat: heme iron and heme iron.

Heme iron. This group consists of animal-based sources such as red meat, beef, liver, raw fish, shellfish, pork and chicken.

Iron jo-hem. The second type of iron is called non-hemp iron and is derived from plant sources, not meat, such as fortified breakfast cereals, dried fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and broccoli.

“Both hem and non-hem sources are essential for healthy iron levels,” says Bishop-Simo.

How much iron do you need?

Wong notes that the amount of iron you need each day depends on your age and gender:

– Young people aged 14 to 18 are recommended to have 11 milligrams a day.

– Men aged 19 and over should consume 8 milligrams per day.

– Young women aged 14 to 18 should consume 15 milligrams per day.

– Women aged 19 to 50 should have 18 milligrams a day.

– Women aged 51 and over should take 8 milligrams a day.

– Pregnant women can require 27 milligrams of iron per day.

“Because non-heme iron in foods of plant origin is not absorbed as well as heme iron found in foods of animal origin, people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet will need 1.8 times more iron to compensate for bioavailability low in their diet. “, adds Wong.

If you are looking to increase your iron intake, the following eight foods are good sources.

1. Enriched cereals

“Some cereals can contain up to 18 milligrams of iron per serving, so make sure you have ¾ a cup of 100% bran cereal,” explains Reema Kanda, a registered nutritionist at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, California. At that level, you are taking care of 100% or more of your daily iron needs depending on your age and gender.

Wong adds that you need to “choose wheat products that are fortified or fortified with iron, such as fortified breads and fortified cereals with iron” to be sure that you are getting the iron benefit that these foods can provide.

2. Oysters and other seafood

The Office of Dietetic Supplements of the National Institutes of Health reports that 3 ounces of cooked oysters contain 8 milligrams of iron, or 44% of the daily value.

Shrimp, clams, scallops, tuna, sardines, saddle and mackerel are all good sources of iron.

“Iron from foods of animal origin is better absorbed than from foods of plant origin,” says Wong. If you are trying to avoid red meat, shellfish are a thinner way to get the iron you need.

3. Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes like lentils are good sources of plant-based iron. ODS reports:

– 1 cup canned white beans contain 8 milligrams of iron or about 44% of your daily value.

– Half a cup of boiled lentils contains 3 milligrams or 17% of your daily value of iron.

– Half a cup of canned beans contain 2 milligrams or 11% of the daily value.

– Half a cup of chickpeas contains 2 milligrams of iron or 11% of your daily needs.

“Some of the best plant sources of iron are bran flakes, instant grains, peeled potatoes and cooked dried beans,” says Wong.

4. Red meat and beef liver

The ODS reports that 3 ounces of fried beef liver in the pan contains 5 milligrams of iron, or about 28% of the recommended daily value. Steak and other red meat cuts, including organ meats, are also good sources of animal-based iron; 3 ounces fried round beef contains 2 milligrams or 11% of your daily iron needs.

5. Poultry and eggs

Chicken, turkey and eggs also contain good amounts of iron. The ODS reports that 3 ounces of roasted chicken or turkey contain 1 milligram of iron, or 6% of the daily value. A whole egg also contains 1 milligram of iron.

“Iron from meat, fish and poultry is absorbed better than iron from plant-based foods,” says Kanda.

6. Cooked spinach and kale

Spinach was Popeye’s favorite snack when he needed a boost, and whether it’s because it is rich in vitamin A or because it is a good source of iron has long been debated online.

In any case, half a cup of boiled spinach contains 3 milligrams or 17% of the daily value of iron. One cup of shredded kale contains 1 milligram of iron, or about 6% of its daily value. Both are good plant-based ways to increase your iron intake, while also taking a wide range of other vitamins and minerals that can keep you healthy.

7. Dried fruits

A cup of dried apricots has 7.5 milligrams of iron, good for 42% of your daily needs. Dried peaches have 36% of the daily value, and a cup of prunes has 26% of the daily value of iron.

8. Nuts and seeds

Dried roasted pistachios are not only delicious and fun to eat, but also provide iron. Half a cup contains 1 milligram or 6% of the daily value. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds also offer good plant-based ways to add a little more iron to your diet.

Other foods can help you absorb more iron.

In addition to eating foods that are rich in iron, you can help your body make better use of those resources by adding certain foods that are high in beta-carotene and / or ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C. both help the body absorb more iron Me

Foods high in beta-carotene include:

– carrots.

– Kiwi fruits.

– Orange.

– Red bell pepper.

– Sweet potatoes.

– Tomatoes.

– Yellow squash.

Foods high in vitamin C include:

– Blueberries.

– Broccoli.

– Citrus.

– Red bell pepper.

– Strawberry.

Kanda recommends including foods high in vitamin C when you are eating non-heme sources of iron. “When consuming non-chemical food sources, include your foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus juice, melon fruits, dark green leafy vegetables and potatoes. They can help your body absorb more iron. . ”

Iron absorption blockers

On the other hand, there are some foods that can make it harder for your body to get the iron it needs from the foods you eat. Bishop-Simo says you should avoid combining food items that can impede iron absorption with foods high in iron in the same meal.

For example, try not to consume calcium-rich foods, calcium supplements or coffee and teas with iron-rich foods, as these items can reduce the amount of iron absorbed. You can still consume them, but try not to consume them at the same meal with high-iron foods.

To complete or not?

If you are concerned about your iron levels or have been diagnosed with anemia, you may want to consider adding an iron supplement.

“Your doctor will be the best person to discuss whether iron supplementation is appropriate or not,” says Bishop-Simo. “They will be able to test your blood for iron deficiency and make the recommendation whether to supplement or not.”

In general, it is better to get all the nutrients you need from the foods you eat, rather than taking a pill to meet your daily nutritional needs.

Kanda adds that it is important to “always discuss with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms such as pale skin and nails, dizziness, headaches and inflamed tongue, known as glossitis. All of these can be symptoms of low iron levels. Depending on the cause and your low iron level, your healthcare provider may recommend an iron supplement.

8 main foods rich in iron

– Enriched cereals.

– Oysters and other seafood.

– Beans and legumes.

– Red meat and beef liver.

– Poultry and eggs.

– Cooked spinach and kale.

– Dry fruit.

– Nuts and seeds.

More from US News

9 foods that are rich in vitamin A.

The best vitamins and minerals for older adults

7 foods rich in healthy proteins

Foods richer in iron to combat iron deficiency originally appeared in usnews.com