Iron is a crucial mineral required in the body, which is why you should always include iron-rich foods in your diet. It is required for normal growth and development of the body. Iron is mainly required to make hemoglobin in the body, which is a protein in the red blood cells and helps transport oxygen from the lungs to the various organs. Iron is also required to synthesize various hormones in the body.
The deficiency of iron can lead to anemia, which occurs when the blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. This mineral is required for hemoglobin to function properly. Without iron, hemoglobin cannot transport oxygen. Without enough oxygen, one may feel tired all the time. The most common symptoms of iron deficiency are:
- Increased heartbeat
- Brittle nails
- Decreased appetite
- Inflammation of tongue
- Pale skin
Deficiency of iron can occur due to several reasons. It commonly occurs due to inadequate consumption of iron-rich food and can also occur due to blood loss from bleeding or menstruation. Iron deficiency can also be the result of consuming mostly vegetarian sources of iron, which are poorly absorbed in the body. Iron-rich foods from animal sources are easily absorbed in the body, and this form of iron is known as heme iron.
Which Iron-Rich Foods are the Best?
Many iron-rich foods are available for vegans, vegetarians, and non-vegetarians. They should be included in our regular diet to prevent iron deficiency anemia. The top five iron-rich foods are:
Red meat is a rich source of heme iron and is easily absorbed in the body. Due to the absence of anti-nutrient factors, iron from meat has the highest biological value. 100gms of red meat contains about 2.7mg of iron, which makes it a rich source of iron. Iron from meat is retained in the body better than iron supplements.
2) Organ Meats
Organ meats are rich in iron and have more nutrients than regular meat. 100g of beef liver contains about 6.5mg of iron, making it the best choice for iron-deficient individuals. Organ meats are also rich in other nutrients such as Vitamin A, copper, selenium, manganese, etc.
Quinoa is an iron-rich vegetarian and vegan option for those who cannot consume meat. Quinoa is popular with people suffering from celiac disease as it does not contain gluten. It also contains other minerals and vitamins like folate, magnesium, copper, manganese, etc. Quinoa also has antioxidant properties.
Broccoli is an iron-rich vegetable that also contains Vitamin C, which is required for the proper functioning of iron. Broccoli is known to prevent many diseases and keeps the gut healthy due to its high fiber content. Broccoli also has plant compounds known to prevent the risk of cancer. It is a good option for people on a vegan diet.
5) Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a delicious and popular choice for chocolate lovers. It is highly nutritious and contains minerals such as copper, magnesium, and iron. A one-ounce serving of dark chocolate contains 3.4mg of iron, which makes it iron-rich. It also contains prebiotic fiber, which keeps the gut healthy. Dark chocolate is also known to have weight loss properties.
The deficiency of iron can be prevented by incorporating iron-rich foods into our diet. There are two types of iron present in food items--non-heme iron in foods from plant sources and heme iron from animal origin foods.
Iron from animal sources is absorbed better than iron from plant sources. Meat, fish, shrimp, certain veggies and grains can be included in the diet to provide adequate amounts of iron to the body and prevent iron deficiency anemia.
Iron deficiency can cause weakness, fatigue, pale skin, headaches, and dizziness. A balanced diet with foods rich in minerals can prevent an instance of deficiency. Iron can also be supplemented in case of severe deficiency when prescribed by a health professional. Anyone suffering from iron deficiency anemia must follow specific dietary recommendations and consult their health professional regularly.