Most health nuts associate iron with lean biceps and dumbbells, and yet, as a mineral, iron is vitally important too. What’s its role? Iron is responsible for delivering oxygen to the various muscles and tissues throughout your body. Not enough iron results in a condition known as anemia, the symptoms of which are fatigue and loss of appetite.
Fact: Iron deficiency is the primary cause of nearly 50 percent of all cases of anemia, so it’s no wonder why many of you want to know what foods you can eat to get the most out of this essential nutrient. Here’s the deal.
Meat-derived sources of iron. “The best sources of bio-available iron are from meats,” says Alyssa Chicci, a trusted dietitian in the Zeel network. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t mean you have to scarf down a burger (although beef and venison contain ample amounts). Chicken, fish, turkey and white pork loin all contain significant levels of iron as well.
Iron for vegetarians. While meat-based sources of iron are ideal (because meat-derived iron is in an easily digestible form), non-fauna sources can fulfill your daily requirement as well. Look for iron-fortified cold or hot cereals, beans, lentils, soy products, blackstrap molasses, romaine lettuce, turmeric (spice), shiitake mushrooms and kelp.
Boost iron with vitamin C. Consuming iron with vitamin C helps your body to absorb the mineral more easily. Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables as well as fruit juices, either naturally or through fortification. Drinking about four ounces of orange juice, for example, can help you to absorb iron efficiently.
Limit calcium and polyphenols. While vitamin C is an iron ally, calcium and polyphenols, on the other hand, serve as a barrier to iron absorption. Columbia-trained dietitian Adrienne Raimo reminds us that, “Calcium and polyphenols (found in tea, cocoa, spinach and more) can inhibit iron absorption.”
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