Iron is a very important part of your daily diet-- without enough of it you can suffer a condition called anaemia, which makes you feel dizzy, tired and apathetic. Without enough iron in your body, your immune system can become compromised as well. Vegetarians especially should be very careful about how much iron they consume on a daily basis. Following is an overview of foods and drinks containing iron, and how to get enough of it into your system.
All About Iron
Iron is a mineral essential to the human body. Iron deficiency, which is common in the North American diet, can lead to fatigue, and decreased immunity and energy because iron works to transport oxygen throughout the body.
There are two kinds of dietary iron--heme iron, which comes from the haemoglobin protein in the red blood cells of animals, and non-heme iron, which comes from plants. Of the two, heme iron absorbs into the body easier. To increase iron absorption, consume foods, drinks and supplements rich in vitamin C.
To ensure you get your daily recommended dosage of iron (10 to 18 mg a day) naturally through food, the National Institute of Health recommends the following iron-rich foods and drinks. The amount of iron required varies by age and gender. Although iron deficiency can be bad for your health, having too much iron also can cause serious health complications. Please consult a physician or nutritionist before starting any kind of diet or nutrition program.
Excellent Sources of Iron
Excellent sources of heme iron (3.5 mg or more per serving) include: liver, which has approximately 11 mg per serving depending on the type of liver; kidney, which has 7 to 11 mg, depending on the type; and shellfish, such as clams and oysters.
Excellent sources of non-heme (plant) iron include: cooked beans, including white beans, soybeans, lentils and chickpeas; breakfast cereals (the ones enriched with iron); and lima beans, red kidney beans and split peas.
Good Sources of Iron
Good sources of heme iron (2.1 mg or more per serving) include beef, poultry (the darker the meat, the more iron it contains) and black pudding.
Good sources of non-heme iron include: enriched egg noodles, or any other enriched, cooked noodles; dried apricots and other stone fruit; spinach; peppers (canned/fresh) and tomatoes
Other Sources of Iron
Foods containing 0.7 mg or more of heme iron include chicken, ham (and other lean pork meat), lamb, veal, seafood (be careful to avoid mercury poisoning by consulting the mercury levels in your seafood) and eggs
And, finally, foods containing 0.7 mg or more of non-heme iron include: nuts; seeds and legumes such as peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds; breads (enriched with iron); breakfast cereals like oatmeal and farina/cream of wheat; wheat germ; canned beets; dried seedless raisins and fresh stone fruit such as peaches, plums/prunes, dates, apricots and nectarines.
The juice of any of the fruits listed previously can make an excellent iron-rich drink, along with beverages such as milk or protein shakes that specify they are enriched with iron.
In general, iron absorbs poorly into the body. Iron supplements and non-heme iron do not absorb as well as heme iron, so to maximise absorption, be sure to eat and drink foods high in vitamin C to better absorb the iron. Consult a physician to assess your daily iron needs before starting any diet and nutrition program.