Iron is an essential mineral your body requires to make proteins found in red blood cells and muscle tissue; there are many ways to add iron to your diet. Not getting enough iron in your diet can cause iron-deficiency anemia, which is more common in women with heavy menstrual periods, vegetarians, infants and children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, seniors and athletes. If you have symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia, such as weakness, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, or feeling cold, consult your health care provider.
The recommended daily amount of iron ranges from 8 mg to 27 mg depending on your age, gender, and if you’re pregnant and/or nursing. Below are some easy ways to add iron to your diet to help prevent iron-deficiency anemia.
1. Red Meat, Fish and Poultry
Eating red meat, fish, and poultry are all great ways to increase the amount of iron in your diet. Red meats such as beef and liver are the best sources however fish and poultry also contain significant amounts of iron. Animal sources (heme iron) tend to absorb better in your body than iron from plant sources (nonheme iron).
2. Egg Yolks
Eggs, especially egg yolks, are good sources of iron and protein. Keep in mind that eggs are somewhat high in fat and cholesterol; look for organic eggs with added omega-3 fatty acids to increase your dose of healthy fats.
3. Iron-Fortified Grains and Cereals
Although grains and cereals are not naturally high in iron, many are fortified (iron is added) making them one of the best sources of iron. Check your food labels to be sure the bread, cereal or oatmeal you’re consuming is indeed iron-fortified. Whole wheat and whole grain products will help increase the fiber in your diet as well.
Legumes such as soybeans, peas, many types of beans and lentils are excellent sources of iron. Since legumes are sources of nonheme iron (plant sources), keep in mind they will not be absorbed as well in your body compared to heme iron. Make sure to get plenty of vitamin C in your diet which will enhance the absorption of nonheme iron. Consuming meat proteins (heme iron) will also help increase nonheme iron absorption.
Tofu does contain iron, but in lower amounts compared to meats. Therefore, as with legumes, make sure you get plenty of vitamin C or meat proteins in your diet to increase your (tofu) iron absorption.
6. Dried Fruits, Leafy Greens, Nuts and Seeds
Dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, and apricots all contain some iron. So do nuts and seeds, especially almonds and Brazil nuts, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach.
7. Iron Supplementation
Taking a multivitamin or iron supplement is another way to increase the amount of iron in your body. Ask your health care provider if taking an iron supplement is recommended for you. Although it’s important to have sufficient amounts of iron in your body, excessive iron in your body (iron toxicity) can be counterproductive or even fatal, so it’s important to only take supplements in a dose that is recommended by your doctor.