Gift your body with more oxygen and pump up your diet with iron-rich foods
Pump it up! Iron is an essential mineral in keeping our blood healthy. Iron is carried by hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells which transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
The nutrient is also part of many enzymes helping our bodies to digest food, fight infection, preserve the immune system, maintain the health of skin and hair, and generate energy. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the United States. It can make a person fatigued, decrease work and school performance, slow cognitive and social development during childhood, create difficulty maintaining body temperature, decrease immune function, and cause glossitis (an inflamed tongue).
Certain foods have two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in animal products – such as beef, turkey (especially dark meat), chicken, lamb, pork, and liver – and is most easily absorbed by your body.
Foods rich in non-heme iron include: beans, lentils, nuts, almonds, breakfast cereals (fortified with iron), whole grains, tofu, dark and leafy greens, and dried fruit (like raisins, peaches and apricots). Our bodies are less efficient at absorbing non-heme iron; however it is still a good source of iron. Responsible meal planning can enhance iron absorption when following a plant based diet.
Red meat is not only the best source of heme iron, but it also increases absorption of non-heme iron. Foods high in vitamin C (tomatoes, oranges, peppers and other citrus fruits), and fermented foods like miso, yogurt or sauerkraut also increase iron uptake.
Getting enough iron in your diet is important to keeping your body physically and mentally alert. Be sure to check the nutrition labels for information about the iron content of the food item!
UH OH! High iron intake can be dangerous for people who have hemochromatosis, an inherited disease that causes the body to absorb too much iron and is believed to affect as many as one million Americans. Talk to your physician before trying to increase your iron levels or if you are considering taking iron supplements.