Did you know iron deficiency is the single most prevalent mineral deficiency in the developing and industrialised countries of the world? Do you know if you are consuming the right amount of foods high in iron or not? Iron deficiency is a global health problem of almost epidemic proportions according to the WHO (1). Iron deficiency is one of the leading causes of anaemia, and over 30 percent of the world’s population is anaemic.
Why do you need to eat foods high in iron?
We need iron for production of haemoglobin in our blood, as haemoglobin carries oxygen around our body. Iron is also essential for our immune system. We can get rid of this deficiency by having foods high in iron.
The recommended daily intake of iron is around 18 mg. Some people believe that vegetarians are at a higher risk of developing anaemia because of lack of red meat in their diet, but this is not true. Many vegetarian foods have equally high iron content. Here is a list of some vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods that are high in iron.
Both raw and cooked spinach is a healthy source of iron. A 100 gram serving of cooked spinach contains 3.5 mg of non-heme iron while the same amount of fresh spinach contains 2.7 mg of iron.
Spinach also contains vitamin C which helps in iron absorption in the body. When you eat cooked spinach, you also absorb higher amounts of vitamin A and E, protein, fibre, zinc and calcium.
2. Organ meat
Organ meats like liver, kidneys, heart and brain are all iron rich foods. One serving(100 gms) of liver meat contains 6.5 mg of iron which is almost 36 percent of our daily requirement. These meats are also rich in copper, selenium and all vitamins.
Potatoes are a great way to boost iron content in your diet. Around 300 grams of unpeeled potatoes can provide 3.2 mg of iron. The iron content in sweet potatoes is slightly less – 2.1 mg in 300 grams. Potatoes are also rich in potassium, vitamin C, fibre and magnesium.
All shellfish like clams, oysters and mussels are some good examples of foods high in iron. One serving (100 grams) of clams contains up to 28 mg of iron which more than makes up for our daily dietary requirement.
The iron in shellfish is heme iron, which is more easily absorbed in the body than non-heme iron. Consumption of these fish also helps improve the levels of good cholesterol in the blood.
Soybeans contain an amazing 14.6 mg of iron per cup. This amount can take care of a woman’s daily requirement of iron. Soybeans also contain vitamin C (5.6 mg), zinc (4.55 mg) and iron (258 mg), which make them super healthy food. You may even opt for edamame (young soybeans).
6. Red meat
Lean red meat is one the best iron rich foods that you can include in our diet. A 100 gram serving of ground beef contains 2.7 mg of iron. Red meat is also rich in protein, selenium, zinc, and many B vitamins. In fact, according to research (2), people who eat meat, chicken and fish are less likely to develop an iron deficiency.
Some varieties of mushrooms are very high in the iron content ranging from 12.18 mg to .25 mg per 100 grams. One cup of cooked white mushrooms contains around 2.7 mg of iron. The iron content in oyster mushrooms is almost double that of the white variety.
Turkey is an excellent source of iron. A 100-gram portion of dark turkey meat has 2.3 mg of iron. White turkey meat contains only 1.3 mg of iron per 100 grams.
Turkey meat is also a rich source of protein. It contains other minerals like zinc, potassium and phosphorous.
One cup of cooked broccoli contains 1 mg of non-heme iron. Broccoli also contains vitamin C, which makes it easier to absorb this kind of iron. Broccoli is a very healthy vegetable as it is also rich in folate, vitamin K and fibre.
Nuts are considered iron rich food. Of these, pistachios have the most iron. Pistachios contain 14 mg of iron per 100 grams, which is almost four times that of almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts. Roasting and blanching nuts can lower their nutrients, so you must eat nuts raw.
This dark bittersweet treacle is the natural by-product of the sugar making process. Molasses is rich in iron as two tablespoons of this liquid contains 7 mg of iron. This natural sweetener can be added to various puddings to add to their nutritional value.
Consuming lentils is an excellent way for vegetarians to add iron to their diet. They are an excellent source of proteins, carbs and fibre as well. One cup of lentils (cooked) contains 6.6 mg of iron, which is around 37 percent of your daily requirement.
Olives, a favourite ingredient for Italian food, are a rich source of iron. They contain 3.3 mg of iron per 100 grams. Olives are also an excellent source of fibre, fat and fat-soluble vitamins A and E. Olives can benefit your metabolism and they also lower your risk of heart disease.
14. Fresh parsley
Though it is usually used as a garnish in our food, parsley is a very nutritious vegetable. It is rich in iron, vitamin C, folate, calcium, potassium and vitamin A. Parsley is also known to fight cancer. A 100 grams serving of fresh parsley can provide up to 6.2 mg of iron. So, add it to your salads to increase the iron content in your diet.
15. Sun-dried tomatoes
Raw tomatoes are not very rich in iron, but when they are dried and concentrated, their iron content increases. Sun-dried tomatoes contain 1.3 to 2.5 mg of iron per half cup. A half cup of tomato contains 3.9 mg of iron. The vitamin content in tomatoes makes iron absorption easy. Tomatoes are also a good source of antioxidants and lycopene.
Oats are a healthy and tasty way to start your day. A cup of cooked oats contains 3.4 mg of iron, which is almost 19 percent of your daily requirement. Oats also contain numerous other nutrients like protein, fibre, magnesium, zinc and folate. According to recent studies oats also help in reducing blood pressure.
Amaranth is gaining popularity for its remarkable nutritional value. One cup of cooked amaranth contains 5.2 mg of iron. Amaranth is high is other minerals like calcium, phosphorus and carotenoids.
Mulberries are a rich source of iron. One cup of mulberries contains 2.8 mg of iron. Mulberries are also rich in vitamin C, and K. These berries offer protection against heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Seeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds and hemp are most abundant in iron. They contain around 1.2 to 4.2 mg iron per tablespoon. Products made from these seeds like tahini and hummus are also high in iron content. They are also a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
20. Coconut milk
Coconut milk is a very healthy option for those who are lactose intolerant. A cup of coconut milk contains 4 mg of iron. It also provides magnesium, potassium and phosphorus.
Tofu is a favourite in Asian cuisine, and it is highly nutritious as well. A half-cup (126 grams) serving of tofu contains 3.6 mg of iron. It is also a rich source of proteins for vegetarians. Consumption of tofu also has numerous health benefits like improved insulin sensitivity and reduced risk for heart disease.
Quinoa is a gluten-free seed that has numerous health benefits. It is a rich source of iron. One cup(185 grams) of cooked quinoa contains 2.8 mg of iron. Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium, phosphorous, folate and potassium.
23. Dark Chocolate
It’s probably the tastiest way to add iron to your diet. One serving of dark chocolate contains 3.3 mg of iron, which makes up for 19 percent of your daily requirement. Dark chocolate has beneficial effects on cholesterol as well.
Iron is an essential mineral for our body. Lack of iron in our diet can lead to fatigue, anaemia and even organ failure. However, excessive consumption of iron can also cause harm to our body.
So, it is important to access before you decide to eat foods high in iron content. In short, take the correct amount of iron in your diet and stay healthy.