It is well known that Iron is an important nutrient for optimal health, but many individuals may not know how much Iron they need each day and which foods contain the largest amount of Iron. Iron truly is an essential mineral and is used for the transportation of oxygen to all parts of the body. Unfortunately, Iron Deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide and affects 2% of adult males and 9-20% of adult females. Even the slightest deficiency in Iron can lead to Anemia and can have adverse effects on your energy levels and overall wellbeing. This is especially true for pregnant women who need adequate Iron intake to provide oxygen and nutrients to their own body and to their growing baby. A dear friend of mine who is pregnant with her second child asked me how she can increase her Iron intake without taking more pills or eating too much red meat during her pregnancy. If she has this question, then I know others may have the same question! So this week's Nutrition Tip is all about Iron and the best food sources for this essential mineral.
This week's Nutrition Tip: Preventing Iron Deficiency with Iron-Rich Foods
While taking an Iron supplement or a daily multivitamin containing Iron is a good way to ensure adequate intake, iron from whole-food sources is better absorbed and utilized by the body. Iron from natural food sources, like the ones listed below, are considered safe and healthy. While iron is better absorbed from heme (meat) sources, non-heme (plant) iron is better regulated causing less damage to the body. For this reason, I always encourage my friends, family, and clients to eat a variety of wholesome foods, especially colorful fruits and vegetables, in order to meet their nutrient needs.
The current daily value (DV) for iron is 18 milligrams (mg) for the average adult and pregnant women need a much higher amount of Iron (27 mg per day) and may need to take an additional Iron supplement to meet this need during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Below is a list of the top iron-rich foods (ranked highest per gram) and some great ideas and recipes for you to incorporate more Iron into your daily diet.
1) Dried Herbs and Spices (Thyme, Parsley, Spearmint, Black Pepper, and Marjoram) contains 124mg of Iron (687% DV) per 100 grams!! Just one tablespoon of these dried herbs and spices packs 3.7mg of Iron (21% DV)! Don't be afraid to Spice up your Life and add them to your favorite recipes (add a dash of black pepper to your scrambled eggs, a dash of thyme or parsley in your favorite casseroles, or add a Spearmint leaf to your afternoon mug of tea)!
2) Fortified Cereal (Any whole-grain cereal that is fortified with Iron) contains 68mg of Iron (376% DV) per 100 grams! That means just one cup contains 28mg of Iron (158% DV) and you can now justify your daily snack of your childhood favorite cereal with milk!
3) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (that's right, chocolate!) contains 36mg of Iron (200% DV) per 100 grams and 1.8mg of Iron (10% DV) per tablespoon. So go ahead and add 1 tablespoon of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder to your favorite baked goods, such as my Cocoa Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins!
4) Spirulina (Dried Seaweed) contains 29mg of Iron (158% DV) per 100 grams and 2mg of Iron (11% DV) per tablespoon. Now, I don't expect you to just eat dried seaweed by itself (unless that works for you), but you can easily add 1/2 - 1 Tbsp Spirulina to your favorite green smoothie recipe and meet your daily requirement of Iron without tasting a difference!
5) Bran ontains 19mg of Iron (103% DV) per 100 grams and 22mg of Iron (122% DV) per cup! A very easy and tasty way to eat more Bran and meet your daily requirement of Iron is to use Bran flour in your favorite muffin or bread recipes!
6) Liver (for the carnivores who just LOVE Liver....) contains 18mg of Iron (100% DV) per 100 grams and a typical 3-oz servings packs 15mg of Iron (85% DV)!
7) Squash and Pumpkin Seeds (perfect for Fall) contain 15mg of Iron (83% DV) per 100 grams and 4mg of Iron (23% DV) per ounce! My favorite way to eat Pumpkin seeds is on top of a loaded sweet potato with Greek yogurt and natural nut butter! Trust me, Iron never tasted so good!
8) Caviar (again, if that's your thing) contains 12mg of Iron (66% DV) per 100 grams and 2mg of Iron (11% DV) per tablespoon!
9) Mollusks (Oysters) contain 9.2mg of Iron (51% DV) per 100 grams and 7.8mg of Iron (43% DV) in a 3oz serving, which means you can almost meet your daily requirement for Iron in your favorite appetizer!
10) Sun-dried Tomatoes contain 9mg of Iron (51% DV) per 100 grams and 0.2mg of Iron (1% DV) per piece (2 grams)! These little tomatoes pack a lot of flavor and contain a good amount of Iron, so go ahead and add some flavor and nutrients to your favorite pizza combination or inside these Easy Egg White Potato Nests!
So there is the short (long) list of the food sources with the highest Iron content per gram! Hopefully a few of the top 10 are on your "favorites" list and you can incorporate more of these foods into your daily diet!
I hope this was helpful! As always, I would love to hear from you if you have any questions!