Iron, a mineral found in red blood cells, is necessary to carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. Too little iron in the blood may result in anemia, a condition that causes fatigue, dizziness, and a lack of focus or lack of energy. A blood test can determine an iron deficiency. Iron deficiencies can occur due to lack of iron in the diet, poor absorption, excessive blood loss or pregnancy.
Iron requirements vary based on gender, age, the body’s ability to absorb iron and the amount of iron the body has stored in its reserve. Women of childbearing age have higher iron needs then men and require 18 milligrams daily. Pregnant women require 27 milligrams each day. A medical professional can determine if the body’s iron requirements are being met.
Heme iron, found in animal food, is usually well absorbed by the body. Heme iron sources such as beef, poultry, organ meats, and some seafood are recommended by the National Anemia Council to maintain healthy levels of iron in the blood. Chicken liver, oysters, clams and beef contain the highest amounts of heme iron per serving. Turkey, chicken and tuna are also considered good sources of iron.
Iron found in nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables are in a non-heme form and can be less easily recognized and absorbed by the body. Food that contains over 5 milligrams of iron per serving is considered a good source of iron. Plant-based foods high in iron include beans such as soybeans, white beans and lentils, dried fruit, whole grains, dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens, and iron fortified dried cereals and oatmeal.
"The Prescription for Nutritional Healing," by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, recommends omitting sugar from the diet to increase iron absorption. Eating vegetables with fish can increase the absorption of iron from plant-based sources. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C, such as guava, oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, and broccoli, can increase iron absorption.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Iron and Iron Deficiency
- National Anemia Council: Anemia and Nutrition: The Importance of Iron
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Iron in diet - Food Sources
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 5th Edition", Phyllis A. Balch, CNC; 2010
- Two orange egg yolks isolated on black. image by Mauro Rodrigues from Fotolia.com
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