Iron is an essential element required for producing new red blood cells. It also resides in our muscle cells and in proteins used for metabolism and the immune system. Iron-rich diets ensure healthy energy levels and play a crucial role in energy production and muscle function. The recommended daily allowance of iron for adult men is 8mg and between 8 and 18mg for adult women. The recommended allowance is slightly higher for vegetarians. Many people do not meet their dietary iron target, but this can be achieved fairly easily by eating iron-rich foods. One pro tip: try not to combine iron with coffee or dairy products, as they can inhibit iron absorption.
Cooked lentils contain nearly seven milligrams of iron per cup. Additionally, a cup of cooked lentils is packed with fiber and can even lower cholesterol levels and balance blood sugar. Be sure to soak lentils overnight as this will decrease phytic acid that can inhibit iron absorption.
Chocolate lovers now have a good reason to eat dark chocolate: it is rich in iron. Three ounces of dark chocolate provides approximately eight milligrams of iron. Eating a small bar of dark chocolate, along with other iron-rich foods, can help cases of iron-deficiency anemia.
Dark, leafy greens, including kale, spinach, collard greens, and chard, are amongst the most nutritious foods you can eat. Leafy greens are rich in many essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. These superfoods provide plenty of iron, as well.
A cup of cooked spinach contains 6.4g of iron. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate, as well as numerous other nutrients. Spinach is also rich in vitamin C, which is known to boost iron absorption. One cup of cooked collard greens contains 2.2mg of iron, and one cup of cooked kale contains 1.2mg of iron. For a balanced diet, include at least two servings of dark, leafy greens daily.
Fortified cereals provide between five and eight milligrams of iron. For maximum benefit, check the nutritional label of a particular brand before purchasing. Buy cereals enriched with not only iron but also other minerals like calcium and fiber. Adding vitamin C to your breakfast will help you absorb the iron in cereal.
Red meat is an excellent source of iron. A 3-ounce serving of skirt steak, fat trimmed, provides 2.5 milligrams (mg) of iron, which is 13% of your recommended daily intake. Grass-fed beef goes a nutritional step further; it contains more of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef and a lot less total fat. Grass-fed beef also contains beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), more vitamin E, and more potassium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus than grain-fed beef.
Popular organ meats include liver and kidneys. A 3.5-ounce serving of beef liver contains 6.5 mg of iron (36% of your RDI).
Fish, clams, mollusks, mussels, and oysters all contain iron. Sardines are an excellent source of iron, with 1.8mg (10% RDI) in just a ¼-cup serving. Oysters are an even better source of iron, with 5.6mg (31% of your DRI) in six medium-sized oysters. They are also an excellent source of vitamin B1 and many essential minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium.
Shrimp is also a good source of iron, with 2.6mg in a 3-ounce serving. Eating seafood will also help you reach your daily protein needs. Many seafood options are low in calories, low in fat, and high in nutrients, so eat a few servings per week to maintain a well-rounded diet (but look into the mercury content in your choices, as well).
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans belong to the family Fabaceae. This iron-packed legume is high in fiber and zinc and meets four percent of the daily iron requirements. A single-cup serving of chickpeas contains five milligrams of iron and a hearty dose of protein, making them a great choice for vegetarians. Again, be sure to soak the chickpeas overnight to decrease phytic acid known to inhibit iron absorption.
Poultry like chicken, turkey, or duck, are good sources of iron. Chicken breast with the skin removed is a great source of lean protein and a better option than red meat for those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Half a chicken breast will provide 0.9mg of iron, which is 5% of your RDI. One 100-gram serving of cooked duck meat with the skin has 2.7 mg of iron, which is more than double that of chicken and turkey.
Dried fruit, including raisins, apricots, and prunes, are good sources of iron. A 100g serving of prunes contains 0.9mg of iron. The same amount of raisins contains 1.9mg of iron, and dried apricots contain 2.7mg of iron.
To incorporate dried fruit into your diet, make a trail mix with dried fruit and nuts for a mid-afternoon snack. Trail mix is packed with protein and fibers, and it's sure to get you to dinner time with a steady release of energy so you can avoid the dreaded mid-day energy crash.
Every 100-gram serving of tofu, a valuable vegetarian and vegan meal staple, has 5.4 mg of iron. The body absorbs iron far more readily from meat than plants, so people abstaining from the former need to be careful to consume enough of the mineral. Iron-rich plant foods like tofu help stave off anemia Tofu is also great for the kidneys — it causes less stress than meat.
One of the quickest ways of fighting iron deficiency is with nuts. On average, cashews and almonds provide nearly 3.8 mg and 6.7 mg of iron, respectively, along with a few other supporting nutrients. These two are also potent sources of antioxidant vitamins E and K, which help reduce oxidative stress, and magnesium, a mineral that is involved in hundreds of vital body processes, including strengthening the immune system.
Quinoa has close to 3 mg of iron per cup, about 15 percent of the daily requirement. Quinoa's unique combination of macronutrients means it provides about 8 g of quality protein per serving and is rich in fibers.
In terms of micronutrients, quinoa is a good source of iron, copper, thiamin, and vitamin B6. It also has close to 20 percent of the daily requirement of folate, a B-vitamin essential for making white and red blood cells in the bone marrow.
Who knew that such a tiny food could provide so many essential nutrients? Certain seeds are excellent sources of iron, especially pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds. One ounce (28 g) of sesame seeds provides 4.1 mg of iron. The same amount of hemp seeds contains 2.7 mg of iron, while pumpkin and flax seeds contain 2 mg, and 1.6 mg of iron, respectively. Seeds also provide many other important vitamins and minerals. They are known to reduce inflammation and aid the body in fighting off chronic disease and cancer.
A two-cup serving of broccoli contributes about one milligram of iron and also contains vitamin C for better absorption. Some studies point to this cruciferous veggie's ability to reduce the risk of cancer, and it is a good source of fiber, potassium, and folate, too.
Many people steer clear of potatoes because of their high carbohydrate content, but they're packed with macro- and micro-nutrients, and most of their bad health rap comes from the sometimes excessive add-ons many people pile on top. A large baked potato contains 3.2mg of iron. It also contains a surprising amount of protein—7.5g. Potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamin C, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, and many other essential minerals. For a delicious and nutritious lunch, cut a baked potato in half and top it with steamed vegetables and tuna. Melt some cheese on top for a bit more protein and flavor.
Another great plant-based source of iron, oats are nutritious and make for a delicious breakfast any day. One cup of oatmeal made from old-fashioned or steel-cut oats contains 3.4 mg of iron, almost a 5th of the daily recommended amount. Oats are also an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein, so a bowl of this versatile cereal grain in the morning will keep you full and satisfied for many hours after eating. Oats are also rich in essential minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Tomatoes are some of the most versatile fruits in the culinary world, finding a home in salads, burgers, pasta, and so much more. A single 100-gram tomato contains a mere 18 calories while providing plenty of key nutrients like the antioxidant lycopene, potassium, vitamin K1, and folate. While a small tomato may only account for 1% of the RDI of iron, tomato products like sauces may contain upwards of 40 tomatoes, allowing you to easily meet your iron needs.
Though people on low-carb diets may avoid brown rice, it is one of the healthiest grains thanks to its bounty of other nutrients. Brown rice contains more iron than any other type of processed rice. For this reason, the World Health Organization views brown rice as an integral part of preventing anemia around the world. This humble cereal grain also has a high fiber content—a 100-gram serving reaching 7% of daily fiber needs—and plenty of B vitamins, essential amino acids, flavonoids, and various minerals.
Packed with nutrition, black beans are a tremendous source of iron. Just one cup of cooked black beans provides approximately 3.6mg of iron. Plus, they're an excellent choice for fiber and protein. They're also versatile, easily added to salads, soups, and even desserts. Remember to soak them overnight, as it helps to reduce the phytic acid that inhibits iron absorption.
Edamame, or immature soybeans, offer more than just an appetizer at your favorite sushi place. They are an excellent source of iron, with a cup of cooked edamame providing around 4mg. Apart from iron, they are also high in fiber, protein, and other essential vitamins, making them a nutritious snack or side dish.
For those who don't consume dairy, fortified soy milk is a viable option, providing around 1.1mg of iron per cup. It's also a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Enjoy it with iron-fortified cereals for an iron-rich breakfast.
Not to be outdone by other legumes, lima beans also provide a significant amount of iron. A cup of cooked lima beans can give you around 4.5mg of iron. Plus, they're an excellent source of fiber, protein, and a host of other nutrients, offering a variety of ways to nourish your body.
Peas, though small, pack a punch when it comes to nutrition. A cup of cooked peas offers about 2.5mg of iron. These tiny green gems are also high in fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients. Their sweet flavor and versatility make them a delightful addition to any meal.
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Pumpkin, a fall favorite, isn't just for pies and decorations. A cup of cooked pumpkin provides roughly 3.2mg of iron. Aside from iron, pumpkins are also rich in vitamins A, C, and E, offering a nutritional powerhouse that's as delicious as it is healthy.
A cup of cooked kidney beans offers an impressive 5.2mg of iron. They're also high in fiber and protein. Versatile and easily incorporated into a variety of dishes, from chili to salads, kidney beans are a great way to get more iron in your diet.
A staple in Southern cuisine, black-eyed peas pack about 4.3mg of iron per cup, cooked. Alongside iron, these legumes also offer fiber, protein, and many other nutrients. Don't reserve them for New Year's luck; their nutritional profile makes them worth consuming year-round.
Swiss chard, a leafy green often overlooked, provides around 4mg of iron per cooked cup. This vegetable is also high in vitamins A, C, and K. Whether sautéed or mixed into a salad, Swiss chard is a delicious way to up your iron intake.
This Asian leafy green delivers approximately 1.8mg of iron per cooked cup. Bok Choy also provides a significant amount of vitamins A, C, and K. Try it steamed or stir-fried for a tasty, iron-boosting side dish.
Mushrooms, particularly the white variety, contain around 2.7mg of iron per cooked cup. Known for their vitamin D content, mushrooms also contribute to your daily iron intake. Add them to soups, salads, or stir-fries for a delicious iron kick.
Though not usually recognized for its iron content, two tablespoons of peanut butter provide about 0.6mg. Peanut butter is also rich in protein and healthy fats, making it a well-rounded choice for an iron boost, especially when paired with iron-rich whole-grain bread.
One slice of whole wheat bread can provide approximately 0.7 mg of iron. An excellent source of fiber and B vitamins, though it’s generally a more nutritious choice than refined or white bread when it comes to iron, white bread actually weighs in at closer to 1 mg of iron.
Either way, piling up some bread to make a sandwich with other iron-rich ingredients gives you a meal that packs an iron punch.
One large egg offers about 0.6mg of iron. Eggs are also a rich source of protein and vitamin B12, making them a balanced choice for boosting your iron intake. Incorporate eggs into your meals, from omelets at breakfast to boiled eggs in salads.
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