7 Foods to Prevent Iron Deficiency
Our diet has a huge impact on our overall health and wellbeing. There are some conditions that cannot be avoided no matter how well you are taking care of your diet. But there are also some conditions that can be prevented or improved through diet.
One such condition is the deficiency of iron. Lack of iron in the body could lead to anemia, a condition in which red blood cells become deficient.
- Iron is an important body component deficiency of which can lead to anemia
- One can overcome iron deficiency through well-balanced diet
- Animal protein is the best source of iron while it can also be derived from other food sources
While anemia could range from mild to severe, most of us can prevent this condition by simply adding iron-rich foods in our diet.
The role of iron in the body
Iron is an extremely important element needed for your body. There are two kinds of iron; heme iron which is derived from animal meat and non-heme iron, where former is better absorbed by the body.
Iron utilizes hemoglobin, the red pigment or protein molecule that transports oxygen to the red blood cells. Haemoglobin represents two-thirds of the body’s total iron.
Iron is also necessary for many metabolic reactions in the body. As far as the amount of iron in the human body is concerned, an average human contains 3.5-4.5 grams of iron.
All this makes us wonder how much iron our body needs on a daily basis. That brings us to the next course of the discussion.
How much iron do we need?
It depends on age, gender and overall health of an individual.
- Infants and toddlers need more iron than adults since their bodies grow quickly
- Girls and boys aged between 4 to 8 years need 10mg daily while children aged 9-13 need 8mg per day
- In adolescent, women need more iron as they lose blood every month during their periods
- Women aged 19-50 need 18mg iron daily while 8mg is enough for the men in the same age bracket
- Women iron need reduces to 8mg/day after menopause
Factors affecting your iron needs
In many of the cases, you need more iron:
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- If you are undergoing dialysis after kidney failure
- If you have undergone weight loss surgery
- If you have an ulcer since it causes blood loss
- If you have some gastrointestinal disorder that prevents body from absorbing iron
Unlike other vitamins and minerals, the interesting thing about iron is that you can self-manage iron deficiency by eating iron-rich foods without taking supplements. So let’s go through iron-rich foods you should always have in your diet.
Food sources of Iron
There is no denying that animal meat is the best source to get iron. Other good sources are chicken, fish and red meat such as beef, mutton, and lamb.
Pro Tip - If we set aside chicken liver (contains 11 mg of iron) due to high level of cholesterol, you can go for lamb meat that contains 2.5 mg of iron.
As vegetables contain non-heme iron, you have to take more plant foods to get the proper amount. But not to worry, vegetarians can derive iron from green, leafy vegetables and tomatoes.
Pro Tip - 1 cup of mix vegetables contains around 1.5 mg of iron. Additionally, one can have a cup of tomato soup to get 1.6 mg of iron.
Beans are also a great source of protein. Some of the best iron rich beans are kidney beans, soybean, and lentils.
Pro Tip - Half cup of boiled kidney beans contains 2 mg of iron.
Whether you sprinkle them on salads or eat them raw, nuts not only makes your meal delicious but healthy as well. Cashew nuts contain the highest amount of iron while almond, peanuts, and pistachios can also be added to the diet.
Pro Tip - Snack a cup of cashew nuts to get 3 mg of iron.
5. Dried Fruits
These can be eaten as a snack or mix with salad. For pumping more iron, have some dried raisins, dates and apricots.
Pro Tip - Half cup of raisin contains 1.6 mg of iron content.
6. Breads and Cereals
Why not start the day with some iron boost? Iron-fortified cereals, bread and pastas can be found at many supermarket stores.
Pro Tip - One slice of white bread contains about 1 mg of iron.
Although technically they don’t contain iron, fruits in vitamin C can help your body absorb iron quickly.
Pro Tip - Try adding vitamin C rich citrus fruits such as oranges, lemon and fruits such as kiwi, melons and strawberries in your diet.
Some foods like fruits can help you absorb iron from various food sources, but unfortunately, some other foods might hinder the absorption such as coffee or tea or foods that are rich in calcium. Also, excess consumption of high fiber foods can restrict iron absorption in the body.
If you are experiencing trouble in getting enough iron from various food sources, you can also take supplements by consulting a nutritionist.