Want to feed your hunger while maintaining healthy iron levels? These iron-dense foods taste great and will help you feel great.
Odds are you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat” sometime during your life. Well it’s true, especially when it comes to your iron intake and anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia, the most common form, is caused when your body lacks enough dietary iron, which is used to produce hemoglobin—and less hemoglobin means fewer red blood cells circulating your body. In other words, you need to eat plenty of iron to ensure your red blood cells can deliver oxygen to vital organs such as your heart and lungs.
Luckily, simply adding more iron-rich foods to your diet has been shown to reverse the effects of iron deficiency anemia and help you get back to your energetic and productive self.
Here are some easy, delicious foods you can add to your daily menu that taste good and do good for your body.
Ironing Out Iron
The iron in spinach is different from the cast-iron skillet you cook it with, or indeed the heavy iron you may lift at the gym. In the same way, dietary iron exists in two different forms and what type you eat can have a huge impact on your blood health.
First, there is heme iron, which is iron derived directly from the hemoglobin found in animal products (such as meat, eggs, and dairy). Because humans are also animals, our bodies are able to easily absorb heme iron without much difficulty.
The second type is non-heme iron, found in plants or other non-animal sources. Our bodies have a more difficult time absorbing non-heme iron because of its chemical composition, but plant-based eaters can still maintain healthy iron levels by eating iron-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains and pair them with plenty of Vitamin C—which has been shown to help the body more easily absorb non-heme iron.
The daily recommended amount of dietary iron for women is 14.8 milligrams, while for men the number is 8.7 mg.
Menu For Meat Eaters
Beef and certain kinds of seafood top the charts for iron per serving, followed by poultry and pork. Three ounces of cooked beef or canned sardines will give you 2.1 mg of iron, while the same amount of chicken, turkey or ham will net you 0.6 mg.
The king of meat, at least when it comes to iron, is organ meat, sometimes known as offal or sweetbreads. Depending on your palate, you can maximize the amount of iron in every bite if you chow down on chicken liver, which will provide a whopping 3.5 mg of iron per three-ounce serving.
If you’d rather stick to seafood, a nice meal of mussels or oysters will also do the trick.
Menu for Non-Meat Eaters
While no plant contains quite as much easily absorbable iron as red meat or seafood, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan-friendly options that can help you stave off anemia.
For example, all types of beans are packed with non-heme iron—one cup of cooked beans or one half-cup of tofu (which is derived from soybeans) contains 3.5 mg of iron.
To start your day strong, seek out iron-enriched breakfast cereals, including various kinds of muesli and oatmeal. Further down the ladder are dark leafy greens such as spinach, dried fruits like apricots or raisins, and enriched pasta products like egg noodles, all of which will be in the neighborhood of 2.1 mg per serving.
Finally, clocking in at less than one milligram of iron per serving are nuts and legumes, split peas, broccoli, and enriched brown rice. None of these dishes alone will satisfy your iron needs, but with the ingredients listed here you can whip up plenty of delicious, iron-rich dishes for any meal.
For Those Who Are in Between
Are you someone who wants to have their cake (or cheeseburger) and eat it, too?
Products like the Impossible Burger taste just like real meat, but will this faux patty give you all you need on the iron front? According to Impossible Foods, a four-ounce Impossible burger patty contains 4.2 mg of iron—a little more than 25% of what an adult woman needs in one day and just shy of half what an adult man requires. Impossible burgers also contain heme iron, meaning your body will be able to process it more easily than plant-based non-heme iron.
Consuming enough iron-rich foods is one thing, but ensuring that your body is prepared to absorb and retain that iron is another. The most helpful substance on this front is Vitamin C, which helps your system pull as much iron as possible from your digestive system, so it’s a good idea to pair high iron foods with vitamin-packed fruits or vegetables like grapefruit, bell peppers, kiwis and tomatoes.
Watch What You Eat and Watch Your Hemoglobin
Adding iron-rich foods to your diet will boost your hemoglobin levels, but if you want proof, you’re in luck. At Sanguina, we’re passionate about granting people greater access to their health through innovative, easy-to-use technology. AnemoCheck, our latest innovation, gives you a glimpse of your hemoglobin estimation levels with nothing more than a quick picture of your fingernails. Want to learn more? Download AnemoCheck today.