Iron is an essential mineral in the human body and is one of the components of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that helps blood transport oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also part of many other proteins and enzymes.
The body needs the right amount of iron. Too little or too much iron can cause health problems such as anemia or iron poisoning. The body is able to regulate the uptake of iron, making overdose a rare event and specific to people taking iron supplements. Iron from natural food sources is safe and healthy. Iron can be absorbed from heme (meat) course and non-heme (plant sources). Iron is absorbed more efficiently from heme sources but the body has an easier time regulating non-heme sources which cause less damage to the body. The current daily value (DV) for iron is 18 milligrams (mg). Below is a list of foods that are high sources of iron.
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
These seeds are rich in iron and are one of the best plant sources. Both are low in cholesterol and sodium and can be prepared by roasting them in the oven. Adding them to your diet will also increase the amounts of other beneficial minerals.
Chicken liver is one of nature’s best iron rich foods. Loaded with iron, it can be a key tool in fighting iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. Liver from a free-range chicken is even more likely to be higher in iron and other beneficial fatty acids such as healthy Omega 3 fats.
Seafood (Oysters, Mussels, Clams)
Shellfish can be very good sources of dietary iron. Heme iron, the form of iron most easily absorbed and maintained in the body is what can be found in many types of seafood.
Nuts (Cashew, Pine, Hazelnut, Peanut, Almond)
Generally speaking, nuts have a high iron content. They are also a source of other useful nutrients and have other health benefits including heart and bone health.
Beef and Lamb (Lean Chuck Roast)
Red meats are among the best sources of absorbable or heme iron. Lean beef and lamb are both excellent sources of iron over other meats such as pork. Protein and zinc are also both added benefits of consuming lean beef and lamb.
Beans and Pulses (White Beans, Lentils)
Pulses include all beans, peas and lentils. Beans and pulses are a great vegetarian source of iron. They are also low in fat and contain high amounts of protein and other minerals. These are an inexpensive but nutritious addition to any diet.
Whole Grains, Fortified Cereals, Bran
Foods such as these are great plant sources of iron. Consumption will aid in oxygen transport and energy production. They will also offer a lower calorie options to animal sources of iron.
Dark Leafy Greens
Without sufficient iron, your body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that makes it possible for them to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, are one of the best plant sources of iron as well as many vitamins such as vitamins A and C.
Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
Dark chocolate contains the cacao bean which is a non-heme iron source. While this type of iron is not absorbed as fully as hem source, the body can still absorb some of this iron, leading to the many health benefits that have been discussed. Nutrients like copper and zinc can also be found in this food source.
Tofu is a popular soy-based food. It is a good source of thiamin and some minerals and is packed with iron. This food also contains compounds called isoflavones which have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and relief from menopausal symptoms.