10 iron-rich foods for anemia

Iron-rich foods help fight and prevent iron deficiency anemia . And most of them are already part of the diet of most Brazilians.

Like egg yolks, red meat and legumes, like our good old beans .

Consuming these foods is important because the iron, abundant in them, is considered an essential micronutrient for red cell formation and oxygen transport.

10 foods rich in iron

1. Legumes

Legumes such as beans , peas , chickpeas and the like are considered great natural sources of iron. ( 1 )

Each shell of cowpea, for example, has 1.48 mg of iron, while the same amount of black beans delivers 2.95 mg of the micronutrient.

The lentil, in turn, has 1.75 mg. Since the chickpea , another popular legume, 2.43 mg of iron delivery and pea fresh portion of 1.92 mg per 100 grams. ( 2 )

2. Beetroot

Eating a 100-gram serving of beets delivers 0.32 mg of iron. The root is really a valuable source of this micronutrient. ( 2 )

A curiosity that makes this food even more important for those who need to increase their daily intake of the mineral is that beetroot is a source of another nutrient, folic acid, which helps to increase iron absorption by the small intestine. ( 3 )

3. Dark green vegetables

Vegetables with dark green leaves, such as cabbage and spinach, are good examples of iron-rich foods to put in the diet and avoid anemia. ( 1 )

Each serving of this type of vegetable has, on average, 0.8 mg of iron. Apart from other nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, which increase the mineral’s bioavailability. ( 4 )

4. Red meats

As it is abundant in tissues of animal origin, iron is present in red meat.

The beef , for example, contains on average 2.9 mg iron per serving of 100 grams. Since the pork delivery about 1.2 mg of the nutrient in the same portion.

An interesting thing is that the micromineral levels are considerably higher in parts with a higher incidence of red fibers (red type muscle), since they have a higher amount of the myoglobin protein.

This characteristic makes viscera, such as liver , contain much more iron than other cuts, with 5.79 mg per 100 gram piece. ( 5 )

5. Fish

As they are of animal origin, fish are also foods rich in iron. ( 1 )

One of the best is sardines , with 1.36 mg of the mineral in a 100 gram portion. The salmon (0.54 mg) and freshwater croaker (0.26 mg), as well as other fish, have lower but still satisfactory values for health. ( 2 )

The fish oil , rich in fatty acid compound also serves to increase the bioavailability of the iron in other foods. ( 6 )

6. Oysters

Did you know that oysters are one of the richest foods in iron?

For you to be aware, a 100-gram serving of this shellfish, which can be served raw or cooked, delivers about 26 mg of the mineral . This represents more than the recommendation for daily consumption of an adult woman. ( 2 )

7. Whole grains

Whole grains are foods produced with all the important parts of the grains, such as bran, germ and endosperm and, because of that, they are highly nutritious. ( 7 )

When using whole wheat flour you will be getting 3.41 mg of iron every 100 grams.

The oats , the brown rice and quinoa are also perfect choices for a diet rich in iron, with 1.28 mg, 0.10 mg and 1.49 mg respectively per serving. ( 2 )

8. Egg yolk

The egg is no longer considered a food villain and the yolk started to be pointed out as another option of food rich in iron. Two cooked egg yolks deliver 1.5 mg of the nutrient. ( 8 )

9. Dried fruits

Those who like dehydrated fruits can be happy because they are also on the list of foods rich in iron. Thanks to the dehydration process they undergo, the nutrients are concentrated .

Fruits such as plums and apricots , when dehydrated, total, on average, 0.90 mg and 2.60 mg per serving, respectively. ( 2 )

10. Oilseeds

Closing the list, we have oilseeds, such as Brazil nuts (2.98 mg), cashew nuts (0.68 mg), peanuts (3.13 mg) and walnuts (2.04 mg ). ( 2 )

types of iron

Dietary iron is divided into two types , heme and non-heme iron. While equally important, each behaves and is metabolized differently.

Ferro heme

Heme iron is the type that is best absorbed by the body and is of animal origin .

It is basically formed by hemoglobin and myoglobin , proteins that also exist in the human body, allowing the micronutrient to be identified more easily. ( 1 )

The heme type, however, does not represent most of the mineral we consume. Most come from vegetable sources or food supplements. ( 8 )

non-heme iron

Iron-rich foods that are of plant origin are a source of non-heme iron, which is considered the most consumed form of this mineral.

It, however, is not so well put to use as it depends on the functions of the stomach and intestine to get into a more metabolizable shape.

Non-heme iron has yet another disadvantage, which is that it is directly influenced by anti-nutritional compounds. ( 8 )

Importance of iron consumption for health

Iron is considered one of the essential nutrients for the maintenance of life. It is used during the production of red blood cells , cells that give the blood red color and serve to transport oxygen to all tissues. ( 1 )

The recommended daily intake of it is 8 mg for adult men, 18 mg for women of childbearing age and rises to 27 mg during pregnancy. ( 8 )

Maintaining these levels is essential to prevent delays in children’s learning process, keep the immune system functioning properly and also prevent growth problems during childhood and adolescence.

During the period of pregnancy, it is even more necessary, which is why the indication almost doubles, as it is considered an active agent in reducing the risk of maternal death and also of premature birth. ( 9 )

Symptoms of lack of iron in the body

Because it is such an important nutrient, iron deficiency gives some signs that can be seen and are indicative of the problem.

Symptoms are mainly derived from decreased oxygen supply, caused by decreased red blood cells and are usually:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Apathy (lack of motivation)
  • Pallor of mucous membranes (wet parts) and skin
  • lack of disposition
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low immunity
  • Lack of air
  • Dizziness.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is necessary to seek medical advice. ( 9 )

Diseases that can be caused by lack of iron

The primary problem caused by a lack of iron in the body is iron deficiency anemia , the most common type that most often affects children, women of childbearing age and pregnant women.

If left untreated, this problem can have other health consequences, including symptoms such as hair loss , higher incidence of respiratory infections and some illnesses such as the onset of thrush .

In children, the disability is even worse, because it impairs the development of motor coordination, learning and growth. ( 9 )

How to increase the use of this mineral?

Increasing the consumption of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), abundant in citrus fruits, favors the absorption of non-heme iron , that of vegetable origin, by improving its metabolism.

Another facilitator of the use of non-heme iron is vitamin A, especially when in the form of beta-carotene (orange colored vegetables).

It not only improves the process of dissolving the mineral in the gastrointestinal tract, increasing absorption, it also favors the use of the body’s reserves.

Folic acid (B9) acts in a similar way and therefore should also be included in the diet. Lastly, if you are not on a vegetarian diet, set a daily amount of meat for consumption.

What hinders iron absorption?

The anti-nutrients , especially phytic acid (phytate present in grains and legumes) and polyphenols (found in tea, coffee and red wine), prevent the proper use of iron by the body.

These are very common compounds in vegetables and bind to the micronutrient structure, hindering the absorption work.

The solution is to consume foods with antinutrients present, accompanied by those facilitators mentioned above, neutralizing their effects. ( 8 )

excess iron

“If the lack of iron is bad for you, then it means that the more the better, doesn’t it?” Wrong! For the body to be able to function properly it is necessary to have a balance .

Having levels greater than 160 mcg of this mineral in your blood can trigger some red alerts for a possible problem: hemochromatosis , or excess iron.

This problem can have two origins:

  • Primary : it is hereditary, and therefore of genetic origin.
  • Secondary : derived from more severe conditions of hemolytic anemia, by blood transfusions or excessive supplementation.

In both cases, all the mineral that is not expelled begins to accumulate in organs such as the liver , heart and pancreas.

This condition can trigger multiple symptoms or be asymptomatic (no apparent symptoms), making diagnosis difficult. ( 10 )

For this reason, keep a balanced diet and see a doctor regularly to assess your physical condition and avoid problems with deficiencies or excesses.

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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