News

IRON-RICH FOODS

IRON-RICH FOODS

Prepared by Rayna Hichez Coste, LDN
Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. LDN #1553 and L.E.A.D. Network member

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals on earth. It is found in every cell of the body. In our diet, it is considered an essential mineral, since it is necessary for the production of hemoglobin. It is involved in oxygen transport and metabolism, it helps maintain high energy levels, a good body development and growth, and to maintain a better immune system. If a person does not consume adequate amounts of iron in the diet, he or she may develop anemia.

Among the most vulnerable populations to develop anemia are infants, children, teenagers, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age. On the other hand, people at risk of low iron levels in their blood are women with heavy menstrual periods, endurance athletes, people with gastrointestinal disorders, vegetarians, post-surgical patients, and individuals with chronic diseases, among others.

To avoid dietary deficiency, it is recommended to include iron-rich foods in our diet. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, the Institute of Medicine and National Academies, the recommended daily intake (DRI) of iron are:

Group Age Iron (mg/d)
Infants 0-12 months 6.9
Children 1-3 y/o
4-8 y/o
3.0
4.1
Men 9-13 y/o
14-18 y/o
19-30 y/o
31-50 y/o
51-70 y/o
>70 y/o
5.9
7.7
6
6
6
6
Women 9-13 y/o
14-18 y/o
19-30 y/o
31-50 y/o
51-70 y/o
>70 y/o
5.7
7.9
8.1
8.1
5
5
Pregnant Women 14-18 y/o
19-30 y/o
31-50 y/o
23
22
22
Lactating Women 14-18 y/o
19-30 y/o
31-50 y/o
7
6.5
6.5

Foods that are excellent sources of iron include:

  • Meat and poultry
  • Liver
  • Tofu
  • Seafood
  • Egg
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach)
  • Legumes (chickpeas and lentils)
  • Dried fruit
  • Fortified cereals
  • Enriched breads

Foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and vegetables, promote the absorption of iron. On the other hand, there are substances found in coffee, tea and whole grain products that do not allow a good absorption of iron. That is why we emphasize even more the consumption of foods rich in vitamin C, by consuming whole foods. Among the most recommended are fruits such as oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe, mango or their juices, and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and cauliflower. Similarly, calcium-rich food or supplements can inhibit the absorption of iron.

If you have symptoms such as tiredness, pallor, fatigue, weakness and headaches, you may be suffering from anemia. To determine the possible cause of these symptoms, you need a complete blood count, better known as a CBC. If your hemoglobin, hematocrit, MCV and MCHC levels are in fact low, you should follow an iron-rich diet. A registered and/or licensed dietitian-nutritionist can help.