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Benefits Of Iron Rich Foods: Health Benefits of Iron

Updated on March 20, 2015
Cereal has anywhere from 1-22 milligrams of iron per serving. One baked potato has 2 milligrams. And half a cup of tomatoes has about 2 milligrams of iron as well.
Cereal has anywhere from 1-22 milligrams of iron per serving. One baked potato has 2 milligrams. And half a cup of tomatoes has about 2 milligrams of iron as well. | Source

Why Is Iron Important In Our Diet?

Iron is an essential part of the hemoglobin molecule which carries oxygen in the blood. The two most common types of people prone to iron deficiency are young women and children. For adolescents and teens, iron deficiency can make the skin look dull and for some can enhance the appearance of under eye dark circles, a major beauty and appearance issue with many women.

Often the lack of iron also expresses itself in the form of:

  • Fatigue,
  • Poor attention,
  • Shortness of breath, which is another condition itself, called anemia.
  • Brittle nails,
  • Inability to stay warm,
  • Frequent colds.

We can see why it is important to have a diet that includes iron and eat iron rich foods. Eating foods that contain iron can provide the following benefits:

Hemoglobin molecule. Iron is essential to normal hemoglobin function in the red blood cells.
Hemoglobin molecule. Iron is essential to normal hemoglobin function in the red blood cells.

The Benefits Of Iron

Having an adequate supply of iron in the body can help to raise energy levels and your attention span. Furthermore eating iron rich foods benefits the immune system and stimulates the production of healthy red blood cells. For those of you caring more about external appearance, iron stimulates muscle growth and reduces the appearance of under eye dark circles, this of course being if your under eye circles are not entirely genetically inherited.

Red meat contains iron.
Red meat contains iron. | Source

Iron In Meats

As for foods that contain iron, Heme iron is found mainly in meats: poultry and fish. This form of iron is easily absorbed by the body and for individuals who have anemia, a daily supplement of Heme iron is an easy way to get your recommended daily dose.

Please note that taking more than the recommended dose, can lead to Alzheimer disease, and cardiac diseases. These can be avoided by absorbing the iron naturally, without supplements.

See the table at the end of the article for recommended daily dosing of iron based on age and sex and health conditions.

Symptoms of Lack of Iron

Iron In Vegetables

The iron that is found in vegetables (non-heme iron) is not easily absorbed by the body which is why vegetarians are told to take iron supplements. (Iron supplements have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, liver cancer, and coronary diseases. So it’s best to get your iron from natural sources!) If you want to avoid this fate, my best recommendation is to eat fruits and other vegetables that are high in Vitamin C: oranges, grapefruit, lemon, nectarines, pineapple, and other citrus fruits. Vitamin C makes it much easier for your body to absorb iron because it converts ferric iron to ferrous iron and ferrous iron is easier to absorb (let’s not get into the Chemistry of that now…) Drinking coffee, tea, wine and excess grains can inhibit the absorption of iron, but these can be countered by Vitamin C, so keep up with that.

Goji Berries contain a LOT of iron.
Goji Berries contain a LOT of iron.
No wonder he was so strong.
No wonder he was so strong.

Vegetables/Nuts/Fruits That Contain Iron

Per 1 Cup

  • Goji berries (up to 90 mg!)
  • Nuts
  • Dried beans
  • Soybeans (8.8 mg)
  • Spinach (6.4 mg)
  • Lima beans (4.4 mg)
  • Black beans (3.6 mg)
  • Chickpeas (3.2 mg)
  • Prune juice (3.0 mg)
  • Peas (2.5 mg)
  • Cashews (2.1 mg)
  • Raisins (1.6 mg)
  • Almonds (1.5 mg)
  • Watermelon (1.4 mg)

Oysters contain high amounts of iron.
Oysters contain high amounts of iron.

Meats That Contain Iron

Per 1 Cup

  • Beef (liver) (6.17 mg)
  • Organic chicken (1.13 mg)
  • Fish
  • Lean red meat
  • Turkey (2.0 mg)
  • Lamb (2.5 mg)
  • Duck
  • Chicken
  • Oysters (16.0 mg)
  • Clams (3.0 mg)

Goji Berries

Some Health Risks of Consuming Iron

Too much iron in your diet, upwards of 20 milligrams a day, can cause nausea and stomach pain. This worsens if the dose is not taken with any food or on an empty stomach. Iron is very tightly regulated in your body and cells so it's important to follow the recommended daily guidelines set by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) if you decide to start taking a supplement.

Here are the NIH guidelines for iron supplements in the following table.

Daily Upper Intake Levels Recommended by the NIH

Age
Male
Female
Pregnancy
Lactation
Birth to 6 months
40 mg
40 mg
 
 
7-12 months
40 mg
40 mg
 
 
1-3 years
40 mg
40 mg
 
 
4-8 years
40 mg
40 mg
 
 
9-13 years
40 mg
40 mg
 
 
14-18 years
45 mg
45 mg
45 mg
45 mg
19+ years
45 mg
45 mg
45 mg
45 mg
Do not exceed more than the recommended daily dose as set forth by National Institutes of Health guidelines.
Remember: Vitamin C helps your body to absorb non-heme iron, found in vegetables!
Remember: Vitamin C helps your body to absorb non-heme iron, found in vegetables!

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    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 

      6 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Londonlady

      Well researched and interesting article. Iron, as you say, is an important mineral with varied essential uses within the body and its functions. Voted up and useful

      Kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      IronMan 

      7 years ago

      Is this why our blood tastes like iron...kind of...because of the hemoglobin that has the iron in it? That's pretty coollll

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