Iron rich foods
We’ve all learned from Popeye that iron is important. But even for those who don’t necessarily need to grow impressive biceps, this mineral is really important! A shortage of iron can cause your body a lot of negative consequences. Yet many people are not sure where they can actually get iron from, apart from meat and spinach. While there is so much more possible!
In this blog, we will tell you iron rich foods and exactly how much iron you actually need, and why it is so important. In addition, we mention nine iron rich foods that make it a lot easier to get to your daily amount!
Animal and vegetable iron
Iron is often referred to as one mineral, but in reality, there are two types. First of all, there is animal iron – also called heme iron – and there is also vegetable iron or non-heme iron. The difference is mainly in the sources from which you get it, as the name actually says.
Animal iron is only found in animal products, while plant iron is almost exclusively found in plant foods. This distinction is important because your body cannot absorb both types equally well. Animal iron is processed more easily, while you really only use a relatively small part of vegetable iron.
The absorption of iron
In addition to the type of iron, your intake can also be influenced by other factors. All types of iron are better absorbed when you consume vitamin C. For that reason, it is often recommended to eat fruit with your iron-rich diet, such as citrus fruits!
Other substances actually inhibit the absorption of iron. Calcium, for example, ensures that animal iron can be processed worse, while it has no influence on vegetable iron. Polyphenols in tea and coffee make the absorption of both types of iron more difficult, and rhubarb may also have a similar effect. It is therefore preferable not to combine these products too often with iron-rich food!
Iron in food
Exactly how much iron do you need per day? That differs slightly depending on your personal circumstances. The Nutrition Center has established an RDA of 9 mg per day for adult men. For adult women, that is 15 mg up to the age of 50, mainly because you lose quite a lot of iron through menstruation.
If you no longer menstruate or not yet, the RDA is more towards 9 mg. From the age of 50, as a woman, you still need about 9 mg of iron per day.
These guidelines all assume that you also eat animal products. For vegetarians, the RDA is 1.8 times higher, for both men and women: 16 and 28 mg respectively. After all, you absorb the vegetable iron a lot less well.
Iron deficiency symptoms
What happens if you don’t consume those amounts? The main problem with iron deficiency is that your body cannot produce enough hemoglobin any more. That means you cannot carry enough oxygen to your organs through your blood. Symptoms include chronic fatigue and pale skin.
Even if you suddenly become more and more out of breath or feel dizzy, this can indicate an iron deficiency. In some cases, it may be advisable to take an iron supplement, especially if you eat vegetarian, for example. If you continue to feel faint, it is best to talk to your doctor.
Iron rich foods
But a supplement is certainly not always necessary. In many cases, it also helps to simply opt for a little more iron-rich food. Below we list nine important products and categories. There is enough variety with most, so you have every chance to create a varied and iron-rich diet!
- Red meat (approx. 1.5-2 mg iron per 100 grams)
Whether you choose veal, lamb or beef: it contains a lot of iron. However, it is not advisable to eat too much red meat, in large quantities this can be harmful.
- Apple syrup (approx. 12 mg per 100 grams)
Apple syrup may be the most iron-rich product in the entire supermarket. Of course, it remains relatively high in calories and contains a lot of sugars, so here too: eat it in moderation. Note: iron comes from the added sugar beet. Apple syrup with 100% apple provides little or no iron!
- Rye bread (approx. 3 mg per 100 grams)
In addition to iron, rye bread also contains a lot of fiber and protein. The traditional combination of rye bread with apple syrup is certainly an iron bomb, where those fibers help absorb the sugars.
- Egg (approx. 1 mg iron each)
The iron is the egg is one of the reasons it is such a shame to throw away the yolk. That egg yolk is full of minerals that you really need! And if you are still worried about that cholesterol: in this post, we explain why it is not necessary for anything.
- Legumes (approx. 2 mg iron per 100 grams)
Dried beans are the most iron-rich legumes, but you really can’t go wrong here. Lentils, chickpeas, green beans and even soy also fall into the category of iron-rich foods! Another reason to eat a lot more legumes, so.
- Whole grains
It is difficult to state an iron value for whole grains because of course, it varies greatly per product. A wholemeal sandwich, for example, contains about 0.9 mg of iron, whereas for brown rice it is only 0.4 mg per 100 grams. Still, any bits in this category will certainly help!
- Dried fruit (approx. 1.5 mg iron per 100 grams)
Many fruits contain a little iron, but dried fruits are the undisputed champions here. Think, for example, of dates or figs. Dried apricots stand out even more, with 4 mg of iron per 100 grams! Of course, they also contain a lot of sugars.
We know that spinach contains iron. However, there are more iron-rich vegetables. For example, sweet potato, broccoli, beets, and almost all leafy vegetables are recommended.
- Nuts and seeds
Iron contents also vary considerably in this category. Pumpkin seeds steal the show with 8 mg of iron per 100 grams. However, sesame seeds, cashews, and pine nuts follow close behind. And it actually applies here again: if you choose nuts regularly, you really can’t go wrong!