It is a fast paced life with everybody busily involved in their lives. Sometimes we tend to lose focus on good food habits and miss out important nutrients. This results in us falling ill or may be a visit or two to the doctors. Awareness of important nutrients would definitely help us in avoiding these potential and unpleasant incidents.
Iron plays a very important role in our bodies. It is one of the many nutrients vital for human body. Before understanding the role and importance of iron rich foods, we should take a look at what happens when our bodies become deficient in iron or how things turn up due to lack of it.
Deficiency of iron is one of the frequently occurring deficiencies in the world. It is present in all cells in the human body. Iron rich foods help us with Iron that is needed to create haemoglobin, a part of red blood cells that perform the role of carrier for oxygen and carbon dioxide. It takes in oxygen in the lungs, drives it through the bloodstream and delivers it in tissues including the skin and muscles. So deficiency of iron creates interference of the important functions in the body that can result in even death.
Total body iron found in men is about 3.8 g and in women it is about 2.3 g.
Athletics has also been considered to play a part in contributing to lower iron levels. The reasons include destructions of RBCs due to injuries, increased sweating and urinating. Some sports demand weight of an individual to be controlled rigorously like wrestling and gymnastics and have been suspected to lead iron deficiency.
If not treated, iron deficiency can lead to Anaemia. Iron rich foods should be included in diet as as it clear enough that iron is necessary for creation of haemoglobin, iron’s inadequacy results in lesser RBCs (Red Blood Cells) or haemoglobin itself. RBCs carry oxygen and less RBC or Anaemia can stunt growth in infants and children due to lack of oxygen in the bodies. Other issues include trouble during pregnancies and heartbeat that is not regular.
Anaemia that occurs due to severe iron deficiency, can be diagnosed through a complete blood count. Think anaemia, think giddiness, fatigue and paleness.
Iron is also necessary for many other bodily functions. Enzymes like amino acids and new tissue cells need iron to function properly. Iron lets you regain energy after hard physical exercises. Iron is a must for immune system and plays a very important role in the overall development of children mental and physical.
Some Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Include:
Fatigue or exhaustion makes one easily tired. When less oxygen is carried owing to iron deficiency, the body does not generate enough energy to keep you going. A heart that is working overtime despite lack of oxygen can give you irregular heartbeats and some other issues related to heart.
Sometimes we are tired and feel the urge to keep moving our legs. Some of us, before bedtime, feel restless in the legs while the other body parts are ready to go for sleep. This too is attributed to inadequacy of iron.
People with Pagophagia feel the need and are often do not resist temptations to consume ice or iced drinks. Anaemic patients crave for non-food substances.
Hair loss or baldness is a worldwide trouble we all face. Sometimes it is genetic and sometimes iron deficiency causes hair loss.
Lack of oxygen in nervous system make you feel uneasy and anxious. You start feeling anxious even for petty things. Have you observed someone being anxious instead of being relaxed lately?
So to avoid iron deficiency we have to know all food sources that contain enough iron in them and can be consumed. Many of us just pop a pill and ignore natural good sources of iron.
The daily recommended minimum iron intake for men is 10 milligrams per day and for women it is 15 milligrams per day.
There is no hard and fast rule that dictates that we consume only plant based sources of iron or animal based sources. So it becomes to chart a course as per individual preferences.
We have categorised some iron rich foods by separating them into vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian, so that it becomes easier for you to decide between them. If your diet is a mix of both even better!
Beans, peas and lentils are very good sources of iron. Not only that, they are good sources of proteins, fibres and minerals too. The best suggested iron rich foods cannot be better than vegetables when we also consider their nutrition along with iron content.
Soybeans and tofu are packed with iron. 168 grams of tofu contain 3-3.5 milligrams of iron. Tofu is generally associated with Asian menu but has lately made its way to all parts of the world owing to its nutritious value and many health conscious guys and girls have started incorporating tofu in their diets. On the other hand, a cup of soybeans has 8.8 milligrams of iron in it.
Red kidney beans (Rajma) are very popular in India for its taste and are known to have 4-6 milligrams of iron for every cup that is cooked.
Highest iron content is found in chickpeas and black-eyed peas though which also has been a part of daily diet for us.
Nuts and seeds have fairly good iron content in them, with some of them having really high amount of iron. It can easily be made of part of your daily menu as everyone loves their taste and is hard to skip it!
Pumpkin seeds and flex seeds are easily found in all local dry fruit stores, contain the most amount of iron in them. Apart from providing iron, they also contain essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Just like seeds, nuts too, for instance, cashew nuts (natural and not roasted) are a very good source of iron. Please note that roasted nuts do taste very good, but do not contain as much nutrients as natural ones. So nuts should be consumed only in its natural state.
Peanuts are one of the most consumed items in the world, especially India. We eat peanuts to pass time. Unsalted peanuts have high content of iron (magnesium and potassium too) and are very good sources of protein too.
Vegetables including the leafy ones, are considered to be a very good source of high iron foods and are known to have more iron that generally assumed food items like meat and eggs.
Vegetables high in iron like spinach contains a good 2-6 milligrams of iron per cup cooked. Brussels sprouts and Cabbage are a good source of iron.
Potatoes that are unpeeled contains a good amount of iron in them. Iron is found on the skins of potatoes and therefore recommended to be consumed unpeeled.
Mushrooms of late have become a part of diet on special occasions. There are some varieties of mushrooms that are very rich in iron.
Sun dried tomatoes are a very good source of iron. They also contain vitamin C in them that is necessary to absorb iron in body.
It might be a bit surprising to few but some fruits do contain a lot of iron in them. Iron rich fruits also contain antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients in them.
Prune juice is good source of iron and is also know to help relieve constipation.
Olive fruits contain decent iron content in them. Per 100 grams of olive, you can take in 3 – 3.5 milligrams if iron. Olives also keep heart diseases at bay.
Per cup, mulberries offer 2.5 milligrams of iron and they are also a very good source of antioxidants too. Antioxidants protect heart from diseases.
Whole grains on any given day are more beneficial than processed grains as many nutrients like fibre, antioxidants and iron are lost while processing of the whole grains. Whole grains like oats are very good sources of iron. Refined grains do not have as much nutrients as whole grains.
Oats are tasty too and has also become a worldwide favourite of many due to its immense benefits. With 3-3.5 milligrams available in a cup when cooked, its time you begin your breakfast with iron rich foods like oats. Consuming refined grains in similar quantity will not be much helpful to you.
Brown rice has been considered a staple diet in many regions of the world. It also helps in detoxifying the body. Genuine iron rich foods also satisfy your belly for a longer duration. For that matter, brown rice taken with vegetables and beans gives the fruitfulness of the fiet to the fullest.
Meat lovers have a range of good meaty foods with iron to choose from.
Generally meat is considered to be quite rich in protein, which it certainly is apart from being storehouse of iron. Meat based high iron foods also have the advantage that need be consumed with a supplement of vitamin C.
Chicken Liver is considered to be very good source of iron. Chicken is also consumed by many vegetarians but once in a while.
Chicken breast is also considered amongst other good sources of iron. It is even the most liked part and tasty too, be it events or at home.
Oysters, a well know sea food provides with a lot of iron. Sea food are always considered to be nutritious with a myriad options to choose from like prawns and clams.
Fish remind us of Omega 3 fatty acids and also contain a very good amount of iron.
Eggs, are a staple diet of millions worldwide. The boiled ones are listed into the iron rich foods because of the egg yolk. One egg offers half a milligram of iron.
Other good sources of iron
Some non-traditional foods that are also the iron rich foods are coconut milk(1.6 mg for every 100 grams) and apricots.
Coconut milk is recommended to be a part of diet to fight the risks of anaemia. One fourth of the daily iron intake necessary for human body can be found in a single serving of coconut milk. It is also rich in magnesium.
Apricots, considered amongst other good sources of iron also taste good and are liked by people of all ages. To gain the maximum iron of it, it should be eaten dry and roasting, cooking et al should be avoided.
Peanut butter is a good source of iron and protein. It also comes with an advantage that kids love it when it is spread on their bread. Even a cupcake with peanut butter is loved for its taste and no one leaves it alone!
Helpful and handy facts
Sometimes even after consuming iron rich foods, it does not help us fight the ills caused by lack of iron. SO it is advisable to plan iron intake after noting few things like:
Iron found in meat products are absorbed by our bodies without the need for a supplement. On the other hand Vegetables, nuts, grains and beans which also are good sources of iron and that come from plants, do not get absorbed by body properly. So it is advised to incorporate Vitamin C foods in our diet as they enhance iron absorption from plant based products. Some good sources of Vitamin C include Oranges, Tomatoes and Strawberry.
Few beverages like tea, coffee and soda when taken with meals do not go well with iron rich foods as they stop iron from getting absorbed. This practice should be avoided.
If iron supplements are being taken, then products like antacids, milk and calcium should NOT be avoided at the same time.
So in a nutshell, iron can be found in abundance in your homes or near your retail stores. Its time you start taking it in adequate measures, if not already are.