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.
Too little iron means fewer red blood cells, which can result in iron-deficiency anemia. Spinach is a leafy green that is rich in iron — 100grams of spinach contains three milligrams of iron. Most vegetables contain iron inhibitors but pairing them with vitamin C can help you absorb the iron better.
Soybeans can improve iron levels in the body, and they are a great source of minerals such as copper and manganese, as well. One cup of cooked soybeans contains almost 9 mg of iron. These nutrient-dense legumes are an excellent substitute for meat in vegetarian diets. Apart from this, soybeans are high in protein, amino acids, and many vital vitamins. Include soybeans in pasta dishes to enhance the taste or enjoy them on their own with a little salt.
Oysters are full of protein, zinc, and vitamin B12. They also contain a generous amount of iron. A three-ounce serving of cooked oysters delivers almost 8 mg of iron. Though raw oysters are loaded with iron, for safety reasons it is better to opt for cooked oysters.
Fortified Hot Cereals
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.
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.
Organ meats are some of the best sources of vital nutrients such as iron. A 2.5 ounce serving of beef liver has almost 5 mg of iron. Liver should be consumed in moderation, however, as too much can raise cholesterol beyond ideal levels.
Besides being a great source of copper and manganese, sesame seeds are also a good plant-based source of iron. Believed to be one of the oldest condiments, sesame seeds add a crunchy, nutty taste to many Asian dishes. A quarter cup of sesame seeds contains over five milligrams of iron. Mixing toasted sesame seeds with garlic and vinegar makes a great dressing for savory dishes, noodles, and salads.
A three-ounce serving of canned clams provides approximately 24 milligrams of iron. Clams are one of the highest sources of iron outside of red meat. Enhance the taste of your favorite pasta sauces by adding this flavorful seafood.
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.
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. This water-dwelling bird is a also a great source of selenium, a necessary micronutrient that helps the body to fight free radical damage. Although the meat may appear darker than chicken or turkey, duck and goose are poultry and considered “white” meat.
One cup of dried apricots has 2.7 mg of iron, more than eight times that of the fresh fruit. In general, apricots are a great source of nutrients. They also offer 7 g of dietary fiber, compared to just 2 in a fresh serving.
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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.
Cashews and Almonds
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.