10 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF IRON

10 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF IRON

10 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF IRON

This article will be basically focusing on 6 important topics:

I) WHAT IS IRON? THE MINERAL

II) THE IMPORTANCE OF IRON.

III) FUNCTION OF IRON INSIDE THE BODY.

IV) THE TYPES OF IRON THAT ARE IN OUR FOODS.

V) 10 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF IRON.

VI) 5 WAYS BY WHICH YOU CAN INCREASE THE INTAKE OF IRON IN YOUR DIET.

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WHAT IS IRON THE MINERAL?

Iron is a mineral and it is arguably one of the most important in the body. 

Iron is crucial to our bodies for making the protein hemoglobin, which in turn transports oxygen to all the vital organs of our body. 

10 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF IRON

Iron deficiency might be subtle in its manifestations, which might include ill-health, weakness and fatigue, affect cognitive development in children, and so on.

THE IMPORTANCE OF IRON

It is also, one of the minerals that a lot of people are deficient in or at least has a higher probability of being deficient in, especially if you follow a plant-based diet. 

Iron deficiency could be termed as the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in today’s world. 

While the numbers are shocking, around 2 billion people i.e. about 30% of the  world’s total population is suffering from anemia which is mainly due to iron deficiency.

FUNCTION OF IRON INSIDE THE BODY

As iron is responsible for the production of hemoglobin in our bodies and hemoglobin molecules are basically thereto transport oxygen throughout our system. 

Hence, most of them can be found inside of our blood, obviously, and that’s where a lot of the iron is stored, about 60 to 70% of the iron in our body is found in our hemoglobin molecules

Other places that iron is found inside of the body is like our liver, our kidneys, and some of our other organs, and basically, it just lives there so that the hemoglobin can pull from those storage areas if it needs any extra.

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THE TYPES OF IRON THAT ARE IN OUR FOODS

There are two types of iron:

i)Heme iron

ii)Non-heme iron.

Heme iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body, is found in meat or animal products, which includes all kinds of meat like seafood, poultry, and pork. So heme iron is about 10% to 30% absorbable.

Whereas non-heme iron, which is found in plant-based sources, cereals, legumes, fruits, and vegetables is less absorbable. Maybe about 8% to 10%, so that means if you are following a plant-based diet, you will have to be a little bit more mindful of your iron and getting inadequate amounts of iron and also ensuring that you are absorbing iron.

So, if you are at all wondering if you are deficient in iron, the only thing that I can recommend is to go for a functional medicine doctor or just any sort of doctor, have a blood panel done and that will give you a sense of where you fall in the range.

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10 BEST FOOD SOURCES IRON

So now that we kind of know a little bit about what iron is and what it does for us, let’s discuss the 10 best food sources of iron.

1. Soybeans: Soybeans are the base  of plant-based protein options for those of us who are following a plant-based diet. 

Things like tofu, tempeh, edamame, those are all forms of soy, also soy milk and that is a really good way to get in some extra iron. 

10 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF IRON

The one thing to keep in mind if you are somebody that consumes soy is that you want to make sure that you are buying organic and non-genetically modified varieties, just is a little bit easier on your system, easier for your body to absorb and digest and just healthier for the overall world and your own health in general.

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2. Molasses: Molasses are the highest source of iron. And molasses is a natural sweetener, but it actually is, also, surprisingly high in a lot of minerals. 

Molasses is that kind of dark, rich chocolaty flavor most that you get in things like gingerbread. And molasses is really easy to find at almost every single grocery store. And surprisingly it is high in iron. So that’s kind of a benefit of all of the gingerbread-inspired recipes.

3. Lentils: Lentils and beans are great best food sources of iron and of course also plant-based protein. They are incredibly versatile and there a ton of different varieties. 

So you can choose everything from green or brown lentils, which are kind of the more traditional lentils. 

Black lentils or French lentils which are smaller and they have a little bit of a more, almost nutty, kind of crunchy texture, they are awesome in salads. 

Or you can look for something like a red lentil which is more along the lines of a split pea, it kind of turns to mush as you cook but it’s so delicious in curries. 

So lentils are an amazing source of iron but also a really great source of protein and there are so many ways to add them into your diet.

4. Quinoa: The next one in my list for best food sources of iron is quinoa, the almighty quinoa. And just like lentils, quinoa is incredibly versatile. Not only can you find it in the whole seed form, so adding it into salads or things like that. 

Quinoa flour is also incredibly versatile. It can be used in pretty much any form of baked goods that you want. I have tons of quinoa flour recipes on my site. 

Quinoa flour has also been used in gluten-free pastas. So you might even find quinoa pastas at your grocery store, that’s another way to get quinoa into your diet. Things like cookies, and granola, even just like a hot breakfast cereal. 

Quinoa is a great source, not only of iron but also of protein and fiber. It’s a complex carbohydrate so it digests a little bit more easily in the system and it is also high in a few other trace minerals like magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.

5. Pumpkin seeds: The next one on my list is pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are incredibly nutrient and mineral rich, they are probably one of the most mineral and nutrient-rich seeds out there, so they are a really great thing to incorporate into your diet. 

You can just do something as simple as sprinkling them on top of your salad or on top of your oatmeal. You can add them into your smoothies and they are a great source of plant-based protein. 

They are full of healthy fats and they are full of things like iron as well, a few other trace minerals

10 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF IRON

So pumpkin seeds are something that I definitely recommend that you pick up the next time you are at the store. And just keep in your pantry to like use here and there as a simple way to get in a little bit of extra iron into your plant-based diet.

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6. Chickpea: The next in the list of best food sources of iron is the all mighty chickpea. Another iron rich ingredient that you could use in cooking, pretty much all the time, like definitely on a weekly basis. 

You could use chickpeas in almost everything from hummus to crispy chickpeas on top of salad. Soups with chickpeas, blending them up to use in baking. 

Chickpeas are one of those beans that are just incredibly versatile. Chickpeas are kind of mild, they are really high in protein, really high in fiber, and again, also really high in iron as well as a few other trace minerals, including calcium. 

7. Swiss chard: Swiss chard is great because it is one of the highest green sources of iron. So in the greens world, it has the highest source of iron, but it’s also kind of mild in terms of flavor unlike kale or like collards or some of the more spicy greens like mustard greens. 

I would say that chard is more taste-wise, along the lines of spinach. Really easy to incorporate into things like smoothies. Also, you can saute it and it’s absolutely delicious, with like some olive oil, lemon, and garlic. 

You can stir it into salads, you can chop it up finely into ribbons, toss it into your salads. You could add it to a tofu or egg scramble. 

Really there is no end of ways to use Swiss chard. And it’s also just incredibly good for you and it tends to be a little bit on the cheaper side versus something like kale.

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8. Spinach: The next ingredient in my list is spinach. Spinach is one of my favourite when it comes to greens. Spinach is fabulous. 

The best thing about it is the variety of like being able to use spinach like adding it into your smoothie bowls, putting it on sandwiches, sauteing it, etc. 

I really think that spinach is one of those things that you can use in probably a million different ways. Even just blending it up into like a green muffin or something like that, so easy to use and incredibly healthy. 

Of course, spinach is really high in protein and fiber which is great, packed with chlorophyll which is really great for detoxifying. 

It is high in calcium, it is high in iron, of course. And like I said it doesn’t have much of a taste so it’s incredibly versatile in terms of how you want to use it. 

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9. Tahini: You can use it in your salad dressings, it’s an amazing thing to just drizzle on top of roasted sweet potatoes, you can stir it into a dip, you can use it in smoothies, and you can use it on top of toast. It is so good, it has such an awesome flavor too. 

10 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF IRON

Tahini isn’t quite a sweet as something like almond butter. It has a little bit of like savoriness to it, but it’s toasted, it’s just like so good. 

So I highly recommend next time you are at the store, pick up some tahini, it is one of the most versatile high iron foods.

10. Dried figs. Figs are great, not only are they just delicious, like they are just sweet. Dried figs specifically are really high in iron. And, figs are also really nutritious. 

They are super high in fiber, they are great for digestion and they also have some natural sugars in them. 

So they are a little bit energizing, which is really great, and in addition to all of those amazing properties, they are also high in calcium and they are high in iron. 

So, they are one of those things that you could just throw in your bag, bring with you on the way to work or just while you are traveling. Or you could chop them up, throw them into a salad, or like a quinoa salad or something like that.

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5 WAYS BY WHICH YOU CAN INCREASE THE INTAKE OF IRON IN YOUR DIET

So here are 5 ways by which you can increase the absorption of iron in your body, especially if you are a vegetarian and dependant on plant-based sources of iron.

1. Increase the intake of Vitamin C: Vitamin C or ascorbic acid transforms the non-heme iron into a form that is more readily absorbed by the body. 

So if you are consuming iron-rich foods, it might be a good idea to accompany them with Vitamin C rich foods like citrus, bell peppers, broccoli, etc

2. Consume soaked, cooked, and germinated foods: Cereals and legumes are a good source of iron, but they also contain phytates, a class of compounds that inhibit the absorption of iron by our body. 

Processes like soaking, cooking, and germination reduce the level of phytates in cereals and legumes and therefore help in the better absorption of iron.

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3. Keep the calcium intake in check: The mineral calcium, which is found in milk and milk products, competes with the absorption of iron in our body. 

So, for example, kids who consume a lot of milk might have the risk of iron deficiency, if their iron rich meals are accompanied with calcium rich foods.

4. Do not consume tea or coffee with meals: Tea and coffee contain a group of compounds known as polyphenols, which inhibit the absorption of iron from non-heme sources. 

So it might be a good idea to consume your tea or coffee between the meals instead of with your meals.

5. Iron fortification and supplementation: You can also increase the intake of iron by consuming foods that are fortified with iron, for example, iron fortified cereals, or you might also include iron supplements in your diet.

Now, should you be worried about the iron levels in your body? Most people don’t need to worry about it, but it’s also good to know the food chemistry part of it. 

So go get a blood test, and if your iron levels are fine, continue with your existing diet. And if not, you could consult a nutritionist and discuss meal plans in a way that increases the absorption of iron in your body. 

You could also follow my list of 10 best food sources of iron and the various ways you could incorporate those items in your diet to make it a healthy diet.

I hope you would like this article and would love to get your feedback on your experience in the comment sections.

 

 


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