Iron is an essential nutrient that you must get through natural foods. There are several different types of iron-rich foods that will help you meet your daily needs. For the uninitiated, iron is a mineral that serves many vital functions of your body, the main one being carrying oxygen throughout your body as a part of red blood cells. The daily value of iron for most people is 18 mg and a deficiency of which can cause many issues like anaemia, fatigue, etc (1). There are a lot more things to know about iron-rich foods, but let's begin by first telling you all about the health benefits of iron.
Health Benefits of Iron:
Consuming fruits and vegetables rich in iron can benefit your health in several ways, we've mentioned some below for you.
1. It Supports Brain Function:
About 20% of your blood oxygen is used by your brain, which is aided by iron (2). Your brain health & its proper functioning are also related to iron. When you have a proper blood flow & oxygen supply in the brain, it helps stimulate cognitive activity & creates new neural pathways in order to prevent cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
2. It Regulates Body Temperature:
Iron has the ability to aid in facilitating the regulation of normal body temperature. It can effectively regulate your temperature depending on the absorption capacity of your body. While maintaining a normal temperature, it also facilitates an optimal environment in order to carry out metabolic and enzymatic functions.
3. It Helps Treat Anaemia:
Consuming iron-rich foods can help treat severe disorders like anaemia which usually occurs due to loss of blood or deficiency of iron. Iron is also necessary for women after their pregnancies in order to compensate for the blood loss during childbirth.
4. It Helps Muscle Function:
Iron is a major component of muscular tissues, especially myoglobin which aids in providing the required amount of oxygen that is needed for muscle contraction. This nutrient helps maintain muscle tone as well as muscle elasticity.
5. It Forms Haemoglobin:
If you didn't already know, iron is a primary requirement for the formation of hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen throughout your body. This nutrient also helps amp up the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells. You must know that hemoglobin is quite crucial to make up for lost blood, especially in women who are menstruating. Hence, it is advised to eat foods high in iron.
List of Iron-Rich Foods:
There are a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables with iron. We've divided both lists for you below.
Here's a list of iron-rich fruits that will help you understand which fruit you need to start including in your daily diet as soon as you can.
One of the iron-rich fruits that hold about 0.24 mg of iron is watermelon. This fruit is loaded with vitamin C and helps improve and maintain an ideal iron level in your body. It is also a great source of lycopene and beta-carotene which helps increase iron absorption in your body (3).
One of the fruits high in iron is also pomegranate with 0.3 mg of iron per 100 grams. This fruit has the kind of seeds that help fight anaemia which is the cause of low iron levels. In fact, pomegranate can also successfully enrich your body with vitamins A, C and E along with folic acid. So when you pack your diet with iron-containing fruits like pomegranate, it can reduce the risk of iron deficiency (4).
A 100 gm serving of fresh berries contains 0.3 mg of iron. That might be a little low but berries have the ability to act as iron absorbance boosters. The ascorbic acid i.e. vitamin C in berries intensifies the absorption of non-heme iron by stopping the formation of insoluble iron compounds and increasing cellular iron uptake at the same time.
One of the iron-rich fruits that can give you 3.52 mg of iron per 100 grams. Prunes are dried versions of plums that also contain good amounts of vitamin K, B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and dietary fiber. You can easily include prunes in your diet by adding them to a bowl full of morning cereals (5).
There are several iron-rich vegetables that you should include in your daily diet in order to keep your iron levels up-to-date. This list will help you.
1. Leafy Greens:
Spinach, kale, beet greens, and swiss chard can provide you with 1-5.7 mg of iron per cooked cup. You might find it difficult to consume 100 grams of raw leafy greens due to their bulk, hence it's best to consume them only after cooking. Dark leafy greens also contain vitamins B, C, and K along with potassium which helps boost iron absorption in your body. These veggies high in iron are also rich in antioxidants called carotenoids which can help improve your health by lowering the levels of inflammation and increasing your immunity (6).
One of the iron-containing fruits that you must include in your daily diet is beetroot. This fruit is loaded with iron, which is an essential component of red blood cells, which you already know by now. 100 grams of raw or cooked beets can give you about 1 mg of iron but it's the beets' greens that will give you nearly 3 mg of iron per cup. Beetroots are also packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and magnesium that can prove great for your overall health (7).
If you wish to improve your iron absorption to cure anaemia and hemoglobin, you must consider eating broccoli. 100 grams of broccoli will give you 0.7 mg of iron. This cruciferous iron-rich vegetable also contains glucosinolates, indole, and sulforaphane - which are compounds that have the ability to protect your body against cancer (8).
Iron deficiency can result in anaemia which is a common type of anaemia - a condition where blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. When your body lacks iron, it is unable to produce enough of a substance in red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen throughout your body. This leaves you feeling a few symptoms that we've mentioned for you below (9):
- Pale skin
- Extreme fatigue
- Chest pain, shortness of breath, or heartbeat speeding up
- Headache, lightheadedness, or dizziness
- Cold hands and feet
- Brittle nails
- Inflammation or soreness of the tongue
- Poor appetite
- Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances like ice, starch, or dirt
Side Effects of Iron:
People who take iron supplements by mouth should know that it's mostly safe for most people when used in prescribed doses, which is below the tolerable upper intake level of 45 mg. Side effects of iron, if taken in more than moderate amounts, can result in vomiting, nausea, and stomach upset. Hence, it is always recommended to take iron supplement doses only under medical supervision (10).
Other than fruits and vegetables with iron, you can introduce Saffola Fittify High Protein Steel Cut Oats to your diet. They are made from 100% natural whole-grain oats and make for a great source of high protein and fiber along with vitamin B1, phosphorus, & iron. They are quite low in sodium and thus help in reducing cholesterol levels. As they have no added sugar or preservatives, these Steel Cut Oats are sure to be the right option for you to help you feel satiated for long hours.
Iron is quite an important mineral, which you know by now, that you must consume daily as your body cannot produce it by itself. However, some people need to limit their intake of red meat and other foods rich in iron in order to not fall prey to the side effects of this nutrient. Most people are able to easily regulate the levels of iron that are absorbed by foods, so you need not worry about that. Always remember that if you don't consume fish or red meat, you can boost absorption by including a natural source of vitamin C when eating a plant-based source of iron.
FAQs On Iron-Rich Foods:
Which drink has the most iron?
- Drinks that are iron-rich are:
- Spinach juice
- Prune juice
- Tomato juice
- Beet juice
What should be avoided when taking iron?
If you're taking iron supplements, you should avoid foods like cheese, yogurt, milk, and eggs or consume them in very small quantities for one hour before two hours of taking iron.
How much iron do I need per day?
Men over 18 years of age need 8.7 mg of iron per day. Women aged between 19-50 need 14.8 mg of iron and those over 50 to need 8.7 mg of this nutrient.
Is it good to take iron every day?
You should aim at getting iron by eating a balanced meal. For those who take iron supplements, make sure you don't take too much of it as it can be harmful. Taking 17 mg or less iron a day in the form of supplements won't cause any harm.
What causes iron deficiency?
Your body gets iron through the foods you eat. If you consume little iron, your body can become iron deficient over time. Hence, it is recommended to eat iron-rich foods like leafy greens, eggs, fruits, and vegetables
Is there any risk of excessive iron intake?
Excess iron is usually stored in your organs like your liver, heart, and pancreas mainly. When there is too much iron in your body, it can lead to life-threatening conditions like diabetes, heart issues, and liver disease.