Spinach may not give you superhuman strength to fight off villains like Popeye’s nemesis Bluto, but this leafy green and other foods containing iron can help you fight a different type of enemy — iron-deficiency anemia.
Iron-deficiency anemia, the most common form of anemia, is a decrease in the number of red blood cells caused by too little iron. Without sufficient iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that makes it possible for them to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. As a result, you may feel weak, tired, and irritable.
About 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women, and 3% of men do not have enough iron in their body. The solution, in many cases, is to consume more foods high in iron.
1. Green leafy vegetables
If you are a vegetarian or just love eating fresh leafy vegetables, you can easily obtain your dose of iron from it. Vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens are rich sources of iron and easy to include in your daily diet. Apart from giving your body an instant source of energy, these iron-rich foods can brighten your skin and strengthen your immune system. Did you know half a cup of spinach can fulfill 20% of your body’s daily iron needs? There are so many different ways to add this nutritious vegetable in your diet – smoothies, omelets, soups, salads and your side dishes are just a few ways.
2. Dark chocolate
Do you crave chocolate during that time of the month? Well we all do, one of the reasons being during menstruation the iron within the blood also gets released from the body. If an adequate amount of intake does not happen, it will lead to iron deficiency or anemia. We just gave you another reason to eat chocolate without feeling guilty! However, there’s a catch here: dark chocolate is 70% cocoa, one ounce of chocolate will provide 20% of what your body needs which is not difficult to get. This iron rich food is also loaded with antioxidants, which means it will not only improve your skin texture and hair health, but will also fight free radical damage and keep your skin youthful.
Lentils are an essential part of your diet and one serving should be included in every meal. Eating just half a cup of lentil a day can fulfill 20% of your body’s iron requirement. A great source of protein, lentils are highly recommended for vegans and vegetarians. Did you know lentils also contain folates, which are essential for healthy hair and nails? Add it to your salad, prepare dal or make a soup, there are plenty of different ways to eat them!
Our health-conscious readers may already be eating quinoa due to its wide range of benefits, for those who are not here’s another reason why you should. Apart from being very low in fat and calories, quinoa also provides 15% of your recommended daily iron intake. Apart from being an iron rich food, quinoa is also brimming with amino acids which your body needs to repair and maintain healthy skin, hair and nails. Another reason why people prefer quinoa is that it is gluten-free, which means it will further improve the texture of your skin. Quinoa salads are delicious and can be prepared in a number of different ways.
Replace unhealthy snacking with a handful of cashews. This iron rich food contains a lot of other essential nutrients that your skin loves. One ounce of cashew can provide 2mg of iron along with vitamins and monounsaturated fats. It is also rich in protein and antioxidants like selenium which is excellent for your skin. Cashews make you feel full, thereby avoiding unnecessary eating in between meals and overeating. The best way to add cashews to your diet is by eating a handful whenever you’re hungry. But you can also add them to your favourite salads.
Talking about healthy snacking, here’s another option that you can include to curb unhealthy eating habits. Raisins are packed with iron, eating one small pack of this dried fruit can offer 1mg of iron to the body. Potassium and B vitamins are other essential nutrients found in raisins, all of these are important for the health of your skin and hair. It also contains antioxidants that rejuvenate the skin and prevent premature ageing. What’s more, raisins are known for purifying blood, which means they also help keep acne and pimples at bay.
7. Baked potatoes
Potatoes have a bad reputation and we understand why, because almost every unhealthy item is prepared using potatoes. Having said that, potatoes contain many nutrients. Apart from being rich in iron and potassium, they are a good source of vitamins B and C. Eating one large baked potato with its skin intact can offer more than 3mg of iron. While there are a ton of different ways to eat potatoes, a majority of them are unhealthy. Stick to this baked potato version, add a little bit of garlic, pepper, salt and olive oil to make it more delicious.
If you love seafood, get your daily dose of iron through oysters. One of the richest sources of iron, one serving of oyster contains a whopping 4.5mg or 25% of the daily recommended amount. It is also rich in collagen, yes the same collagen your skin needs to look young and keep the signs of ageing at bay. The next time you are out with your friends at a seafood restaurant, order oysters, because why not get some nutrients in your body while having fun?
When it comes to seafood and fish, sardines are not one of the most preferred options. However, you may be surprised to know that this fish is packed with beneficial nutrients like iron, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and more. You can add sardines to salads, pasta or even toast to get your daily dose of iron. This iron rich food is easily available in the market and is one of the most inexpensive ways to get healthy skin and hair.
Another food highly recommended for vegans and vegetarians is good-quality, organic tofu. It contains as much iron as any green leafy vegetable, in addition to protein. So, if you get bored of eating your greens, here’s another option to obtain your iron from. The protein in tofu improves skin elasticity and keeps it smooth and supple. Tofu can be added to salads, stir fried with veggies or consumed in soups. The options are countless, do some research and find innovative ways to add this iron rich food in your diet.
FAQs about iron rich foods
Q. Which fruits are high in iron?
A. When it comes to fruits, very few are good sources of iron, vegetables are densely packed with it. Fruits like prunes, olive and mulberries contain a decent amount of iron.
Q. Are bananas high in iron?
A. While bananas are overall packed with healthy nutrients including potassium, a very low amount of iron is found in this fruit. One banana contains not more than .39 mg of iron.
Q. How to raise iron levels quickly?
A. Protein-rich foods like chicken and fish are excellent sources of iron and can be consumed to raise iron levels quickly in the body. Vegetarian options include vitamin C foods and green leafy vegetables.
How Your Body Uses Iron in Food
When you eat food with iron, iron is absorbed into your body mainly through the upper part of your small intestine.
There are two forms of dietary iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin. It is found in animal foods that originally contained hemoglobin, such as red meats, fish, and poultry (meat, poultry, and seafood contain both heme and non-heme iron). Your body absorbs the most iron from heme sources. Most nonheme iron is from plant sources.