Posted on Aug 03, 2023, 11 p.m.
Iron is an essential mineral required for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, from transporting oxygen to aiding our metabolism and immune function. Iron is vital to longevity. Iron can be found in different forms from enriched foods to supplements, but the best way to acquire it is naturally through our diet.
Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional disorder, and it should be considered seriously regardless of age as it can lead to impaired cognitive abilities, decreased energy, anemia, reduced memory recall, weaker muscles, and much more. Consuming an iron-rich diet is known to sharpen our cognitive abilities, as well as improve concentration, and recent research indicates that it could help to prevent heart disease. We’ve collected a short list of iron-rich foods to help boost various dietary needs naturally.
Oysters are considered to be a powerhouse supplying generous amounts of zinc, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron. With excellent bioavailability, the iron within oysters is easily digested by our bodies, and 6 oysters supply 44% of our daily iron needs. 3 ounces of this heart-friendly sustainable food option will also help reduce inflammation while delivering 8 mg of iron to help replenish your iron stores.
Popeye was wise to eat his spinach every day. This versatile leafy green is an excellent source of close to a dozen vitamins and minerals which include folate, vitamin C, carotenoid antioxidants, and iron, just half a cup supplies close to 20% of our daily iron needs. Spinach may be the best green veggie for iron providing 36% of your daily iron in 6 mg per cooked cup, and as an added plus it can help to reduce blood sugar levels, improve blood circulation, boost energy levels, and prevent cancer.
Chickpeas are another excellent source of iron, this plant-based powerhouse contains over 20% of our daily needs per cup along with being packed with other minerals, folate, protein, and fiber. You can obtain 11% of your daily iron value in just half a cup of boiled and drained chickpeas which can help to promote healthy digestion due to its fiber content. To improve iron absorption, it is recommended to eat them in meals rich in vitamin C like tomatoes and combine them with phenolic olive oil to maximize carotenoid absorption.
Kidney beans are another excellent source of plant-based iron which is also a rich source of many other essentials like protein, fiber, folate, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium along with many other healthy essential macro and micronutrients. As a legume, it is recommended to pair kidney beans with foods rich in vitamin C to enhance absorption. One cup contains 22% of our daily iron needs, which can help to maintain stable blood sugar levels thanks to its fiber content.
Quinoa has become popular for many reasons, when it comes to iron it provides 16% of our daily requirements per one cup serving along with being a rich source of protein, folate, copper, potassium, fiber, zinc, magnesium, and manganese along with many other nutrients. This versatile nutrient-dense option is also packed with powerful anti-aging antioxidants and anti-inflammatory plant compounds that will help to protect your cells from free radical damage. It is also a flavonoid-rich food that may help to promote overall health while helping to protect against certain diseases as well as overall mortality.
Perhaps saving the best for last, dark chocolate rounds off our list. Not only is dark chocolate delicious, but it is also surprisingly nutritious, with a one-ounce serving providing 19% of our daily iron needs, 56% of our daily copper requirements, and 15% of our daily magnesium values. Dark chocolate also contains prebiotic fiber that helps keep our gut microbiome happy, and it packs significant antioxidant activity. Dark chocolate has also been shown to have beneficial effects on cholesterol and it may help to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Not all chocolate is equal, the flavanol content of dark chocolate is believed to be responsible for its benefits. But before you get all excited, this doesn’t give you a free pass to binge on dark chocolate, as with most things, moderation is key.
There are many foods available that contain iron making it simple to combine them together from a variety of sources to create a nutritious meal that can help to boost your iron stores. Watercress, collard greens, salmon, dandelion greens, halibut, swiss chards, citrus fruits, shrimp, broccoli, peas, pinto beans, tuna, and yellow peppers are all good sources of iron. Nuts and seeds such as pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, and pistachios also contain generous amounts of iron.
Remember that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring, experiment, there is so much to choose from including a massive selection of herbs and spices to help enhance flavors and mix things up.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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