If you've recently found out that you're suffering from an iron deficiency, anemia, or just want to get more energy out of your diet, then you can't go wrong when stocking up on iron-rich foods. These are the best and our favorites. Don't worry, there are vegetarian options you can choose from, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), iron deficiency is the most common form of nutritional deficiency. Almost 10 percent of American women are affected. And it might happen during your period, too, because you tend to lose plenty of iron during that time. The symptoms of iron deficiency? Chronic fatigue or low energy, the loss of the ability to concentrate, pale skin, shortness of breath, abnormal heartbeats, trouble with sleeping, and many more others.
And what does your body need the iron for? Well, it resides in red blood cells and helps transport oxygen to your brain, tissues, muscles, and cells. But it also helps regulate hormone levels and give always-needed support to your brain, heart, skin, hair, and nails.
Sometimes, eating seems a bit too oriented to science. For instance, did you know that it's not enough to have iron-rich foods, but you should also include foods that help you absorb iron the same meal? It's important to do that because your body cannot make iron on its own. It's your responsibility to take care of yourself and feed it properly. And give it as much iron as possible – the RDA or Recommended Daily Allowance is 8 milligrams for men and 18 milligrams for women. The RDA for pregnant women is even higher, about 27 milligrams.
So you see why it's important to stock up, load up on iron-rich foods, right? Just remember that you should eat during the same meal something rich in vitamin C because it completely improves the way your body absorbs iron. So have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or incorporate tomatoes, berries, kiwi fruit and capsicum in your meal in some capacity.
Remember also that coffee, tea, and wine can reduce iron absorption, and also calcium-rich foods like milk and cheese. You should have all of these between meals, not during them, so that you can get the most out of your iron-rich foods. If you have an iron deficiency, you should combine two or three servings of these foods, daily, for best results!
5 excellent iron-rich foods
You probably won't have this every day, but you should incorporate it into your diet sometimes because it's without a doubt the richest source of iron. Just one ounce of it gives you 44 percent of the RDA, almost double than the next iron-rich item. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that has an intense flavor and it's also loaded with plenty of other things, like essential amino acids, B vitamins, protein, and vitamins C, D, and E. You can get some spirulina powder and mix it in your smoothies.
I'm struggling with this because liver isn't anywhere near my top favorite foods. Still, 3 ounces of beef liver have about 4.05 milligrams of iron, 22.5 percent of the RDA. If you have anemia, then go for liver, because it also contains two other important nutrients that help you get over it: folate (also necessary for pregnant women) and vitamin B12. But if you're not a huge fan, try to include it in salads, with strong-flavored ingredients and what I also do is just cook it with as much garlic as humanly possible. If you like liver, then carry on with the list.
One beef steak (7.5 ounces/214 grams) has about 4 milligrams of iron and 22 percent of the RDV. Sure, red meat isn't the healthiest thing in the world, but you can have it every once in a while, and you have the perfect excuse to do so: a high content of iron. It's also rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and E.
These amazing legumes are super good for you and your overall health and they're so versatile to cook with. Just half a cup of lentils brings you 20.4 percent of the RDA – about 3.3 milligrams. They're also loaded with protein, so they're doubly amazing if you're a vegetarian or looking to cut out some of the meat from your diet (because, as we all know, production of meat products puts a huge strain on the environment and the planet). Last benefit? They're also pretty cost-effective. Find out here what to cook with them.
5. Dark chocolate
It doesn't get any better than this, right? Dark chocolate is not only tasty and a perfect dessert for you, it also has some iron for your cells in dire need of oxygen. All you have to do is pick the best one – and we're describing here just how you can do it. One ounce of dark chocolate has about 3.3 milligrams of iron, which is about 19 percent of the RDV. Don't overdo it with the chocolate, though. Everything is healthier for you in moderation.