Boost Your Iron Level

What Do You Eat When You Lack Iron? Well, first of all lets take a look at why we all need iron in our diets. Iron is an essential mineral that supports the formation of red blood cells, which help transport oxygen through your entire body. The mineral plays a role in cell formation and differentiation and supports a healthy immune system. There are two forms of iron. Heme iron is found in animal foods, such as meat, poultry and fish. Nonheme iron is present in plant foods and is not as easily absorbed as heme iron is. Adult men and women need 8 milligrams of iron each day.

Organ meats are among the top dietary sources of heme iron. A 3-ounce serving of chicken liver contains 11 milligrams of iron, and a 3-ounce serving of beef liver contains 5.2 milligrams. Any type of beef, such as hamburger meat, roast and steak, supply a healthy dose of iron. Chicken, turkey and pork each supply less iron than beef, but still contain a good amount. Seafood is another source of heme iron. A 3-ounce serving of canned oysters supplies 5.7 milligrams. Canned tuna, fresh crab, halibut and shrimp are additional seafood sources of heme iron.

Many plant foods supply a generous amount of iron, which is beneficial if you don’t eat a lot of meat or if you are a vegetarian. Iron-fortified cereal, rice and bread are among the best sources of nonheme iron. A 3/4-cup serving of iron-fortified cereal can contain up to 18 milligrams of iron, and a packet of fortified instant oatmeal contains 11 milligrams. Beans, lentils, quinoa, tofu, spinach, raisins and molasses each supply a good amount of nonheme iron as well. Here’s a handy chart that shows 25 of the top iron rich plant-based foods:

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Choose lean cuts of meat to keep your saturated fat intake low. Even lean cuts supply plenty of iron. Grill a chicken breast or lean steak and serve with a side of low-sodium canned beans and a spinach salad for a meal that supplies almost all of the iron you need for the day. Top a tossed green salad with cooked meat or beans to increase the iron content. Stir beans or white meat turkey into a pot of vegetable soup or chili. Serve iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron more easily. Serve grilled meat with a side of red bell peppers or squeeze fresh lemon juice over a serving of fish, crab or shrimp.

Here’s a list of some foods to boost your iron level:

Very good sources of heme iron, with 3.5 milligrams or more per serving, include:
3 ounces of beef or chicken liver
3 ounces of clams, mollusks, or mussels
3 ounces of oysters

Good sources of heme iron, with 2.1 milligrams or more per serving, include:
3 ounces of cooked beef
3 ounces of canned sardines, canned in oil
3 ounces of cooked turkey

Other sources of heme iron, with 0.7 milligrams or more per serving, include:
3 ounces of chicken
3 ounces of halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, or tuna
3 ounces of ham
3 ounces of veal

Very good sources of nonheme iron, with 3.5 milligrams or more per serving, include:
Breakfast cereals enriched with iron
One cup of cooked beans
One-half cup of tofu
1 ounce of pumpkin, sesame, or squash seeds

Good sources of nonheme iron, with 2.1 milligrams or more per serving, include:
One-half cup of canned lima beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, or split peas
One cup of dried apricots
One medium baked potato
One medium stalk of broccoli
One cup of cooked enriched egg noodles
One-fourth cup of wheat germ

Other sources of nonheme iron, with 0.7 milligrams or more, include:
1 ounce of peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, roasted almonds, roasted cashews, or sunflower seeds
One-half cup of dried seedless raisins, peaches, or prunes
One cup of spinach
One medium green pepper
One cup of pasta
One slice of bread, pumpernickel bagel, or bran muffin
One cup of rice

A Nutritarian

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