l??ast month I posted a story about what I would be making for dinner. I made the “lame” excuse that I was going to make STEAK because I needed some Iron.. then I laughed it off telling all of you guys “to know better”, because “you can get iron from a bunch of different things that are not the steak”.
An Iron-Clad Diet ?
A few of you actually messaged me and asked me what other foods were high in Iron, and because of that, I’ve decided to write this Iron-Clad Diet Post! Pun intended ha!
? ? ? ? ? First of all, what is iron and why do we need it?
First and foremost it’s a mineral, which our body needs! But why do we need it? Our red blood cells have a protein called hemoglobin, and at the center of it, is Iron (Fe).
Without iron, we cannot make hemoglobin.
Why is this bad?
This protein helps our red blood cells carry oxygen from our lungs to our tissues?
(Heart, Kidneys, Liver, Intestines…MUSCLES!).
Most of our iron is found in hemoglobin, which is carried around by our red blood cells, another portion is in stored for later use, and an even smaller portion is held in myoglobin (a protein found in muscle).?
If you’re low in iron, you can have what’s called iron deficiency anemia.
?It can present with:
- Exercise intolerance,
- Even chest pain (because your heart NEEDS oxygen and without it you can cause heart damage).
So…YES… We NEED iron!
But do we HAVE to get it from STEAK? Ummm…. NO! There are so many other things you can eat to get your iron!
It’s important to know though, that there are two types of iron.?
- Heme iron, which you find in red meat and fish.?
2 – Non-heme iron, which you find in veggies, legumes, nuts, etc.
Heme iron has higher bioavailability, meaning, more accessible for use.
Whereas non-heme iron is less bioavailable.? You’d need to eat more veggies, legumes, and nuts to reach the same level of iron you would get from a steak or seafood.
Another thing to know is that certain compounds present in cereals and legumes actually slow down the absorption of non-heme iron, whereas Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), poultry, fish and meat
enhance the absorption of non-heme iron.?? These don’t really pose any issues if you’re eating a balanced diet including animal protein.? Those more likely to be affected are vegetarians and vegans, who completely eliminate animal proteins from their diet.?
So let’s talk about how much Iron you “need” a day, and where you can find it!
Recommended iron requirements are about 1.8 times higher in vegetarians.? Which is any long term vegetarians should consider iron supplements?
On average, for an adult, the required iron intake per day is 8-11mg/day for males and 15-18mg/day for females…. Especially during their time of the month.
These recommendations actually increase to a whopping 27mg per day if you’re pregnant. Hence prenatal vitamins containing iron.
Below is a list of the amount of iron in certain foods:
But you can always check out the NIH to see a bigger list.
- Breakfast cereals fortified with iron have: 18mg per serving?
- Dark Chocolate 3 oz: 7mg per serving… no wonder you crave chocolate during your time of the month? Maybe.?
- Oysters 3oz: 8mg per serving?
- Beef 150g: 4.9mg/serving?
- Pistachios 60g: 4mg/serving?
- Pork 150g: 3.9mg/serving?
- Lentils: 3mg per ? cup?
- Spinach (boiled and drained): 3mg per ? cup.?
- Kidney beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, potato: 2mg per serving?
- Milk has 0mg of iron?
- Breast milk has iron, but not enough to meet the requirements of a 4-6month old infant.?
- Nuts, turkey, rice, chicken with skin, broccoli have about 1mg per serving.?
The bottom line is: You can get iron from other types of foods.
Not all iron is created equal.? Having a balanced diet and eating meat and seafood in moderation helps the absorption of iron from legumes and veggies.? This is why I have mentioned many times in my stories that although I follow a predominantly vegan diet when I can, I will consume meat, seafood, and poultry. ?
I do respect and appreciate those who follow full vegetarian diets and vegan diets for animal rights or religious or any other reason, but I do ask that you see your physician at least annually so that they can follow your health and especially iron levels so you can feel your best and keep living a healthy lifestyle!
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