Have you felt exhausted lately? Can you barely make it up the stairs without getting winded even though you’re physically fit? If so, you might be lacking in iron – especially if you’re a woman.
Although many people don’t think of iron as being a nutrient, you might be surprised to learn that low iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. Almost 10% of women are iron deficient, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Let’s look at why iron is so important to your body, what can happen if you’re not getting enough of it, and when you need to take an iron supplement.
Popeye knew it well, iron is an indispensable ally for our body. In general, a balanced diet should cover our needs, but how to provide us with iron?
Although it is present in many foods, sometimes we can suffer from iron deficiency and even reach anemia. In fact, iron is not always well assimilated into our body, meaning that our digestive system often finds it difficult to extract this mineral from food, transfer it to our body and store it.
In foods such as red meat, crustaceans but also chocolate, seaweed, and spices we can find the answer.
Men should get a dose of 9mg of iron daily, while women and adolescents need 18mg daily.
Women should get about 9mg daily during a menstrual cycle, and 20mg when pregnant, as iron supports the healthy development of the fetus, and is beneficial for breastfeeding.
What happens when we lack iron?
The first symptoms are fatigue, pallor, exhaustion, less resistance to infections … These are some of the indicators of an iron deficiency or anemia.
This can also cause the reduction of physical abilities and intellectual performance as well as disorders during pregnancy. On the contrary, too much iron in the body is also harmful, something called hemochromatosis.
What are the reasons for iron deficiency?
- Lack of iron in the diet or a poorly balanced vegetarian diet.
- A low bioavailability of iron due to excess tea or calcium supplement.
- A reduced absorption of iron caused by gluten intolerance, an inflammatory bowel disease or other intestinal disorders.
- Abundant blood loss such as during menstruation or childbirth.
- An increase in the need for iron due to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and growth.
When it comes to food, we should not deprive ourselves of iron-rich foods such as red meat and crustaceans, but we must also take into account vegetables that have high doses of iron. For those who are important to consume vegetables, here is a list of the main ones in terms of iron content, so that they always integrate your usual diet.
It is low in calories, but extremely rich in iron, vitamin A, and antioxidants. Its iron content is enhanced if you consume it cooked.
One dark chocolate portion of 30 g contains 3.2 mg of iron, which represents 18% of the recommended daily contribution, as well as 25% or the copper and 16% of the recommended magnesium daily intake.
Dark chocolate is also high in prebiotic fiber, which serves as a food for friendly bacteria in the intestines. It also regulates cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of strokes and heart issues.
Nuts, pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, as well as dates, and figs are all extremely rich in iron, but they can also be high in calories, so you should consume them regularly, but in limited quantities. Consume them raw, or add them to your smoothies, desserts, or salads.
This vegetable is rich in sugar and trace elements. One can obtain 1.8mg of iron per 100gr of beetroot, as well as high amounts of betanin, magnesium, and calcium. It effectively prevents cancer, supports the function of the liver, and cleanses the blood.
Moreover, it is rich in high folic acid and helps the proper assimilation of carbohydrates.
Broccoli contains 1 mg of iron per 100 g and this represents 6% of the recommended daily contribution. It is incredibly nutritious!
In addition, broccoli contains 168% of vitamin C recommended for an adult and as we already know, vitamin C helps absorb iron.
Broccoli is also rich in folates and provides 6 g of fiber and high doses of vitamin K.
These vegetables belong to the cruciferous family, where they also find cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and lettuce.
The crucifers contain indole, sulforaphane, and glucosinolates; plant compounds that prevent cancer.
Tofu is a soy-based food that is very popular among vegetarians and in certain Asian countries.
126 g of tofu provides 3.6 mg of iron, which represents 19% of the recommended daily intake.
It is also a good source of thiamine and other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and selenium. The proteins that tofu contributes are not insignificant either since a single portion contains 20 g.
Tofu isoflavones are linked to improving insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of heart disease and alleviating menopausal symptoms.
Legumes are generally rich in antioxidants, carbs, and fibers, but Mung bean is the richest in iron, as you can obtain 1.8 milligrams per 100 g.
They are also high in potassium, copper, and zinc, and their regular consumption has been found o lower the risk of colorectal cancer, help weight loss, prevent diabetes, and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Try to consume them a few times weekly, and the ideal weekly dose would be approximately 680g.
Kale provides high amounts of nutrients and vitamins, that even exceed the recommended daily amount, like a 512% vitamin A and 200% vitamin C.
However, a portion of 100gr of kale provides 1.5mg of iron, which is more than in meat. Kale is also rich in vitamin K, which intervenes in the blood coagulation and helps the formation of strong and resistant bones, and fiber, which treats constipation.
This vegetable lowers cholesterol levels, helps digestion, supports heart health, and slows down the passage of glucose into the blood.
Those pumpkin seeds that we always discard when we cook this vegetable, contain 3.3 mg of iron per 100 grams. Take advantage of them!
They also contain zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium and their high nutritional value is due to vitamins A, E, F and those of group B. Their protein richness is very important: 35 grams of protein per 100 grams. They have all the essential amino acids.
A good way to take advantage of their properties is to combine them in salads with sunflower seeds and other ingredients.
They are rich in fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The pumpkin oil extracted from the seeds contains six times more linoleic acid than olive oil.
A portion of 100gr of lentils provides 3.3mg of iron, lots of fibers which help digestion, and high-quality vegetable proteins. They are also high in vitamin B and magnesium and are extremely beneficial for pregnant women and athletes.