Get more iron in your diet with these foods

Get more iron in your diet with these foods

Are you getting enough iron in your diet? Iron is a powerful mineral that keeps your skin, hair and nails healthy, produces red blood cells and improves a number of important bodily functions. However, despite its importance, more than 3 million Americans suffer from an iron deficiency.  Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency, especially among children and pregnant women. Ultimately, it can lead to iron deficiency anemia, decreased immunity to illnesses and infections and even premature delivery in pregnant women.

So how much iron should you be getting from your diet? The Food and Drug Administration suggests 18 milligrams a day for women between the ages of 19 and 50, 8 milligrams a day for men and 27 milligrams a day for pregnant women.

It also matters what type of iron you’re consuming. Heme iron comes from animal sources and non-heme iron is plant-based. Both types of iron are essential to a nutritious diet. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body, which is why the Food and Nutrition Board at the National Academy of Sciences suggests vegetarians consume nearly twice as much iron as non-vegetarians.

Now that you know how much iron you need to consume, what’s the best way to get more iron in your diet? There are two steps to getting the iron you need: choosing iron-rich foods and choosing foods rich in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Liver
  • Beef and pork
  • Oysters and clams
  • Poultry
  • Cooked dried beans, peas and lentils
  • Spinach
  • Dried fruit
  • Fortified bread, pasta and cereal

Since the body absorbs the most iron from meat, people who don’t eat much or any meat should pair iron-rich plant-based with foods high in Vitamin C to maximize their iron absorption. What’s more, it’s best to avoid calcium (as found in dairy products or calcium supplements) and coffee within two hours of iron consumption, since they limit iron absorption. It's also a good idea to avoid antacids, which decrease the stomach's acidity and can limit iron absorption. 

Foods high in Vitamin C include:

  • Citrus and citrus juice
  • Kiwi
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy greens
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Peppers

Consult one of Goshen Health's registered dietitians to learn more ways you can improve your iron intake.

Posted: 3/04/2016 by Goshen Health
Filed under: diet, healthy eating, iron, nutrition, nutrition therapy

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