Iron is an essential mineral that is necessary for the proper functioning of the body, mainly for growth and development. A lack thereof can lead to various health problems but can be prevented by eating iron-rich foods.
Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Iron is also necessary to make myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles, as well as some hormones, states the NIH.
Low levels of iron can lead to iron deficiency anemia to set in. Red blood cells become smaller and contain less hemoglobin, which results in less oxygen being carried from the lungs and throughout the rest of your body, according to the NIH.
Less oxygen in your blood can lead to tiredness, a lack of energy, feeling weak, struggling to concentrate, and memory problems. Additionally, your body will struggle to fight off germs and infections, as well as regulate your body temperature. It will also become difficult to work and exercise.
Eating a variety of foods that are high in iron can help prevent the development of iron deficiency.
Healthline suggests the following foods that are rich in iron:
- Red meat: Beef, pork, and lamb are good sources of iron that are easily absorbed by the body.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, and duck are also good sources of iron but contain less iron than red meat.
- Seafood: Oysters, clams, and shrimp are all high in iron, but they also contain cholesterol, so they should be eaten in moderation.
- Beans and legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans are all rich in iron, as well as fiber and protein.
- Fortified cereals: Many cereals are fortified with iron, so check the label to see how much iron they contain.
- Spinach: Spinach is a good source of non-heme iron, which is not as easily absorbed by the body as heme iron, but it can still help boost your iron levels.
- Nuts and seeds: Pumpkin seeds, cashews, and almonds are all high in iron, as well as other nutrients like magnesium and vitamin E.
- Tofu: Tofu is a good source of iron, especially if it’s made with iron-rich soybeans.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains iron, as well as other antioxidants that can benefit your health. Make sure to buy dark chocolate that contains at least 45% cacao solids.
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