The human body requires iron for a variety of purposes. Many vital functions, including general energy and concentration, gastrointestinal processes, immune system, and temperature regulation, are preserved by iron.
Iron is essential for the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood. Until a person is not getting enough iron, its benefits frequently go unrecognized.
However, if you have too little iron in your diet, you may develop iron deficiency anemia. Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency may vary depending on:
- the severity of the anemia
- how quickly it develops
- your age
- your current health status
Some of the most common signs of iron deficiency include:
- Fatigue or unusual tiredness
- Pale skin - especially in the face, gums, lower eyelids and nails
- Shortness of breath while doing normal activities
- Frequent, recurring headaches
- Irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations
- Hair loss, dry and damaged skin
- Swollen, inflamed, pale, or strangely smooth tongue
- Mouth Ulcers, dry mouth accompanied by burning feeling
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Koilonychia - brittle, spoon-shaped fingernails
- Depression, irritability, restlessness
Iron deficiency can be caused by a multitude of factors and can happen at almost any age. It can occur due to inadequate iron intake, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, blood loss, or during pregnancy.
Iron-Rich Foods to Prevent Iron Deficiency
There are two main dietary forms of iron — heme and nonheme. Plants and iron-fortified foods contain nonheme iron only, whereas animal foods contain both.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for elemental iron depends on the age and sex of the person. Vegetarians also have different iron requirements, as the absorption rates are lower.
- 0 to 6 months: 0.27 milligrams (mg)
- 7 to 12 months: 11 mg
- 1 to 3 years: 7 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 10 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 8 mg
- 14 to 18 years: 11 mg
- 19 years and older: 8 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 8 mg
- 14 to 18 years: 15 mg
- 19 to 50 years: 18 mg
- 51 years and older: 8 mg
- During pregnancy: 27 mg
- When lactating between 14 and 18 years of age: 10 mg
- When lactating at older than 19 years: 9 mg
On that note, here's a look at six foods that contain iron:
All shellfish contain a lot of iron, but clams, oysters, and mussels are particularly rich in it.
High in protein, low in fat and a good source of iron, they are power-packed foods that can be eaten raw or cooked. The heme iron contained in shellfish is easier for the body to absorb than the non-heme one present in plants.
A 3.5-ounce serving of clams provides up to 3 mg of iron, 26 grams of protein, 24% of the DV for vitamin C, and upto 99 mcg of vitamin B12 (which is 4,120% of the Daily Value (DV). Shellfishes have also been shown to increase HDL levels in blood.
A 3-5-ounce of raw spinach (100 grams) contains 2.7 mg of iron, 2.86 grams of protein, and 2.2 grams of dietary fiber. Although spinach contains non-heme iron, its high vitamin C content aids in faster absorption (almost four-fold).
3) Organ meats, including liver, kidneys
Organ meats, including liver and kidneys, are rich in various minerals and nutrients. Lamb and beef liver are two important sources that contain very high amounts of vitamin B12.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef liver contains 6.5 mg of iron, or 36% of the DV, B-vitamins (especially Vitamin B12), vitamin A, copper and selenium.
4) Red Meat
According to research, people who regularly consume meat, poultry, and fish may have a lower risk of iron deficiency. Red meat is rich in protein, zinc, selenium, and several B vitamins (especially Vitamin B12).
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of ground beef contains 26 grams of protein and 2.7 mg of iron, which is 15% of the Daily Value.
5) Pumpkin Seed
Pumpkin seeds are laden with calories, fats, proteins, fibre, and various nutrients.
A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of pumpkin seeds contains 2.5 mg of iron, which is 14% of the Daily Value (DV) and 40% of the DV for magnesium.
Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of B-vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium. As a portable and non-perishable food, pumpkin seeds are ideal for those who frequently travel.
Some of the most commonly consumed legumes include beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, and soybeans.
They are an ideal source of iron for vegetarians, with one cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils containing 6.6 mg, which is 37% of the DV. They are also high in soluble fiber, which can increase feelings of satiety, thereby reducing overall calorie intake.
Legumes are also a good source of magnesium, potassium, folate, calcium. and zinc.
It's important to consume enough iron in your diet to ensure proper bodily functioning and hemoglobin levels. As the body cannot create iron on its own, iron, being a vital mineral, should be consumed regularly.
For vegetarians, pairing iron-rich foods with a source of Vitamin C can significantly enhance absorption. People who use iron supplements should be careful with dosage and should consult a doctor beforehand.