Iron is one of the most important minerals that holds great importance in the human body, main two being the making of red blood cells and carrying oxygen throughout the body. Iron makes hemoglobin that acts as a carrier of oxygen and carbon dioxide. It carries oxygen from the lungs, through the bloodstream and finally drops it off in the tissues. It then picks up carbon dioxide and carries it to the lungs where it is exhaled.
Difference Between Heme And Non-Heme Iron:
Food consists of two types of iron – heme iron and non-heme iron. The former is found in poultry, fish and meat and is readily absorbed by our body.
The latter is found in plant based food including nuts, fruits and vegetables, and not not completely absorbed by our body.
While upto 30% of heme iron is absorbed by the body, only 2-10% of non heme iron is absorbed.
However, you can increase the absorption of non-heme iron-rich food by combining it with vitamin C, avoiding Iron blockers like tea and coffee, calcium rich food, soy protein, etc, and spreading iron intake throughout the day.
What Happens When You Are Low On Iron?
It must be noted that the recommended daily intake (RDI) of the mineral, iron is 18 mg. If you body is iron deficient, enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells is not produced, leading to infections and various other sicknesses including anemia, meaning you have too little hemoglobin in your body.
Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency:
Insufficient iron content creates havoc to your overall health. you are prone to excessive tiredness, lethargy, dizziness, weakness, hair loss, among other frequent infections. Below mentioned are a few symptoms of iron deficiency.
1. Extreme exhaustion and fatigue: The first and foremost symptom of iron deficiency is fatigue. Since your body is unable to carry enough oxygen to your cells, the body’s energy levels decrease, thus leading to weakness.
2. Infections: Low iron levels have an adverse effect on the immune system. The spleen is one place that fights infections. When there is inadequate oxygen transported to the spleen, you are prone to infections.
The red blood cells also transport oxygen to the lymph nodes which house white blood cells that fight infection. When the body is low on iron, enough white blood cells are not produced and neither do they function well, thus making the body susceptible to infections.
3. Pale Skin: Inadequate iron levels in the body lead to pale and lighter skin as the body is low in hemoglobin. Iron deficiency can also be detected by the color of the inside area of the lower eyelid. If it’s paler than the normal color, your body is iron deficient.
4. Swelling in the tongue: Another common sign of iron deficiency includes a swollen and sore tongue, including cracks on the side of the mouth.
5. Hair loss: Insufficient oxygen to the hair follicles lead to massive hair fall. Besides, the hair doesn’t grow back too, thus leading to hair loss.
These are just few of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency in the body.
Food Rich In Iron Content:
Since iron isn’t readily made by our body, we need to get it from the food we eat. Fortunately, the market is stocked with plenty of iron rich food choices to help meet the required daily amount. Let’s have a look at all the healthy for that are high on iron for vegetarians and non vegetarians.
Shellfish is not only tasty but highly nutritious as well. All kinds of Shellfish contains high amounts of iron but oysters and mussels in particular are extremely good sources. The best part is that shellfish contains heme iron which is easily absorbed by your body. Besides, it is rich in other nutrients and is said to increase good HDL cholesterol in the blood.
100 grams of clams provide 155%of the RDI for iron.
The green leafy vegetable contains non-heme iron which is not very easily absorbed by the body. However, spinach is rich in vitamin C as well, thus boosting the absorption of non-heme iron in the body.
100 grams of cooked spinach provides 20% of the RDI for iron.
3. Organ Meats:
All organ meats including liver, brain, kidney, and heart are highly nutritious and contain high amount of iron. Liver in particular is a popular source of iron.
100 grams of beef liver provides 36% of the RDI for iron.
Besides iron, organ meats are rich source of B vitamins, choline, vitamin A, protein, copper and selenium.
Legumes including beans, chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, peas, etc, are extremely rich in nutrients and are a powerhouse of iron. Rich in folate, potassium, magnesium, and fiber, legumes also helps in weight loss.
198 grams of lentils provide 37% of the RDI of iron. Red kidney beans and navy beans provide 24–37% of the RDI for iron. However, the highest iron content of all legumes is present in black-eyed peas and chickpeas, amounting to 26–29% of the RDI.
5. Red Meat:
Red meat is not only tasty but extremely nutritious as well. Besides containing high amounts of iron, red meat also holds good amount of several B vitamins, zinc, protein and selenium.
One serving of red meat provides 15% of the RDI of iron. In fact, studies have confirmed that red meat is one of the very few easily accessible source of heme iron.
6. Pumpkin Seeds:
Pumpkin seeds make for an excellent snack. It is tasty and loaded with iron, zinc, magnesium and vitamin K.
Add pumpkin seeds to homemade recipes, or use them as a topping in yogurt, cereals, and salad. Or munch on them as a quick and healthy snack.
Per serving of pumpkin seeds provide 26% of the RDI of iron.
Quinoa is a pseudocereal that contains no gluten making it the perfect choice of food for gluten intolerant people. Besides its many benefits, quinoa is an excellent source of iron, providing 15% of the RDI of iron per 185 grams of cooked quinoa.
Quinoa is also packed with antioxidants that protect the skin cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Turkey meat is very delicious and extremely healthy too. Dark Turkey meat in particular is an excellent source of iron when compared to white Turkey meat. Besides, the meat is very high in minerals, B vitamins, zinc, and selenium.
100 grams of dark Turkey meat provides 13% of the RDI of iron.
Turkey is also a good source of proteins. As a result, eating the bird’s meat aids in weight loss.
Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage. The nutritious vegetable, broccoli is a fairly good source of iron. However, since it’s non-heme iron, it is not well absorbed by the body. 156 grams of cooked broccoli provides 6% of the RDI of iron.
But, broccoli is a very good source of vitamin C, thus making it easy for the non-heme iron to be absorbed by the body.
10. Dark Chocolate:
One of the best sources of iron, dark chocolate is not only delicious but also highly nutritious. However, it must be noted that only chocolates with a minimum of 70% cocoa is beneficial for maximum benefits.
28 grams of dark chocolate provides 19% of the RDI of iron.
So these are the 10 foods rich in iron and other nutrients.
A healthy and well balanced diet is the only way to prevent iron deficiency. Remember, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, combine your iron source with vitamin C so that the body absorbs the mineral. Iron is very important and must be consumed daily as the body cannot produce the mineral on its own. However, an excess of any thing is bad and so is an excess of heme iron.
All content mentioned in the article is created purely for informational purposes only. It is not a replacement for any kind of professional medical advice. Please seek your doctor’s guidance regarding your health or a medical condition.