Anemia is often caused by iron deficiency. Too little iron in the body decreases the number of red blood cells and inhibits the production of hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout the body. The lack of iron leads to weakness, tiredness and irritability. There are two forms of iron found in food that help increase iron intake; heme and nonheme.
Heme iron is found in most meat products and is derived from hemoglobin of the animals. The top three sources of heme iron are:
Organ meats such as liver and giblets are the number one source of high iron foods. While not the most popular meat to eat a slice of beef liver contains 5 mg of iron per slice. In addition these meats contain vitamin C as well as vitamin A.
Egg yolks contain 3 mg per half cup of iron. If the thought of eating liver is not appealing egg yolks make a great substitute. One egg contains 3% of the daily recommended allowance for iron. The iron is found in the yolk but it also contains essential vitamins and minerals to help with the absorption of the iron.
Shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels contain 3 to 5 mg of iron. Other seafood such as fish or squid contain iron also but not as much as the shellfish.
Those who don’t care for meat or eat vegetarian can find nonheme iron in legumes and vegetables. Nonheme iron is not as easily absorbed as heme iron therefore consideration should be taken when consuming nonheme foods.
The top two sources of nonheme iron are:
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans have 5 mg of iron per cup with a healthy dose of protein. Make some delicious hummus and boost your iron at the same time.
Finally is the almighty spinach. This nutrient packed leafy green provides 6.4 mg of iron per cook cup. Eaten raw, spinach contains Vitamins A, C, K and B6. It also contains potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc. The nutrients in spinach make it extremely desirable for combatting anemia.
These are the top five food sources for iron. There are many comparable sources that can aid in increasing iron intake such as sesame seeds, lentils and apricots. Other seeds such as pumpkin and chia can also help increase iron intake. Increasing iron intake can be done with heme, animal based, food or nonheme, non-animal based food. A combination of both heme and nonheme is recommended to get the highest absorption rate to meet daily intake requirements.