Let’s talk strong. Let’s talk energy. Let’s talk iron.
Iron is an essential mineral that should be consumed on a daily basis. It plays an important role in making hemoglobin, which allows oxygen to be carried to cells in order to produce energy. Myoglobin, which is found in muscle, is also produced by iron. Additionally, iron is found in many proteins in the body. Already we can see that iron is vital to many bodily functions, including energy production. When levels are low, the body becomes tired, and weakness often follows.
According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, here are the current recommendations for iron consumption:
|Males/19 +||8 mg|
|Females/51 +||8 mg|
There are two types of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body and is found in meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-meat sources like plants and fortified foods contain nonheme iron only.
The following table was taken from the National Institute of Health, compiled from the USDA National Nutrient Database.
|Breakfast cereals, fortified with 100% of the DV for iron, 1 serving||18||100|
|Oysters, eastern, cooked with moist heat, 3 ounces||8||44|
|White beans, canned, 1 cup||8||44|
|Chocolate, dark, 45%–69% cacao solids, 3 ounces||7||39|
|Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces||5||28|
|Lentils, boiled and drained, ½ cup||3||17|
|Spinach, boiled and drained, ½ cup||3||17|
|Tofu, firm, ½ cup||3||17|
|Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup||2||11|
|Sardines, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone, 3 ounces||2||11|
|Chickpeas, boiled and drained, ½ cup||2||11|
|Tomatoes, canned, stewed, ½ cup||2||11|
|Beef, braised bottom round, trimmed to 1/8″ fat, 3 ounces||2||11|
|Potato, baked, flesh and skin, 1 medium potato||2||11|
|Cashew nuts, oil roasted, 1 ounce (18 nuts)||2||11|
|Green peas, boiled, ½ cup||1||6|
|Chicken, roasted, meat and skin, 3 ounces||1||6|
|Rice, white, long grain, enriched, parboiled, drained, ½ cup||1||6|
|Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice||1||6|
|Bread, white, 1 slice||1||6|
|Raisins, seedless, ¼ cup||1||6|
|Spaghetti, whole wheat, cooked, 1 cup||1||6|
|Tuna, bluefin, fresh, cooked with dry heat, 3 ounces||1||6|
|Turkey, roasted, breast meat and skin, 3 ounces||1||6|
|Nuts, pistachio, dry roasted, 1 ounce (49 nuts)||1||6|
|Broccoli, boiled and drained, ½ cup||1||6|
|Egg, hard boiled, 1 large||1||6|
|Rice, brown, long or medium grain, cooked, 1 cup||1||6|
|Cheese, cheddar, 1.5 ounces||0||0|
|Cantaloupe, diced, ½ cup||0||0|
|Mushrooms, white, sliced and stir-fried, ½ cup||0||0|
|Cheese, cottage, 2% milk fat, ½ cup||0||0|
|Milk, 1 cup||0||0|
* DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for iron is 18 mg for adults and children age 4 and older. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Nutrient Database Web site  lists the nutrient content of many foods and provides a comprehensive list of foods containing iron arranged by nutrient content and by food name.
Another interesting fact about iron is that the absorption of nonheme iron is increased with vitamin C consumption. Vitamin C can be found in foods like peppers, dark green leafy vegetables, kiwis, citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, tomatoes, and peas. Additionally, cooking meals in a cast iron skillet can also increase iron consumption. Let’s look at a few examples of meals with high iron content and a higher absorption rate due to the vitamin C content of the meal.
- Grilled chicken with rice, tomatoes, and pineapple.
- Stir fry with rice, tofu, broccoli, and peppers. Add orange for a twist on flavor.
- Grilled cheese sandwich with a side of low-fat cottage cheese and fresh berries.
- Spaghetti with lean ground beef, tomato sauce, side salad and slice of whole wheat bread.
- Sirloin steak with a side baked potato, broccoli, and pineapple.
Iron levels can be low for a variety of reasons. But eating iron rich foods can only help your iron status. Incorporating more meals with this essential mineral can be fun and easy. If you are still reading this you have no excuse to start adding more iron to your diet! Enjoy the positive benefits of increasing those iron stores!