Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods to Add to Your Diet

Iron is one of the main minerals that our bodies need to form all sorts of proteins that do different functions in all body systems. iron is mainly needed to make the important protein hemoglobin which is formed mainly of a protein part the globulin and the iron part which is the haem. this protein is one of the most important proteins in our bodies as it is responsible for carrying oxygen inside the red blood cells from the lungs and giving it away to all body cells for oxygenation so it has a predetermined affinity to oxygen where it is just enough to hold on to it but also can give it away easily. Another very important protein that has the same action as hemoglobin is myoglobin the only difference is that it is specifically responsible for supplying muscle cells with oxygen as they consume a higher load of oxygen, they require their own type of protein for this role.

Iron is present in the body in two forms the protein-bound form like hemoglobin, myoglobin, or in enzyme formation, and the nonheme form like transferrin, flavin iron enzymes, and ferritin. Almost two-thirds of the body’s iron is found bound in hemoglobin in circulating RBCS, 25 % available in iron stores, and 15% bound to myoglobin and many enzymes needed for oxidative metabolism inside the cells.

Dietary iron

An average diet contains approximately 10 -20mg of elemental iron and under ordinary circumstances, the amount of iron absorbed from the diet is about 10 % of all the ingested iron but the amount absorbed varies greatly depending upon the following:

    1. The amount and type of iron ingested
    2. The presence or absence of other foodstuffs
    3. Gastric acidity
    4. Pancreatic secretions
    5. The state of iron stores in the body.the body can increase absorption up to 30% to try and compensate for iron
    6. The activity of the bone marrow
    7. The state of the intestinal mucosa

Daily iron requirements

    • daily requirements of iron are 8.7 mg for men and postmenopausal women
    • 18 mg for women in the reproductive period as menses cause severe iron loss.
    • 27 mg for pregnant women as the fetus requires more iron and folate for growth and development.
    • it is not safe to consume iron in levels of 40 -45 mg or morein a day as it can lead to iron overload and iron toxicity.

Iron deficiency anemia

Anemia means there is a low hemoglobin level in the blood and since iron is a major component in hemoglobin structure that makes iron deficiency one of the main causes of anemia. iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia affecting millions of people all over the world in developed and developing countries and in all age groups of both sexes but it is commonest in young menstruating females.

Causes of iron deficiency anemia:

  1. Inadequate iron intake and poor dietary supplementation especially in females in the childbearingperiod and in infancy and adolescence as more iron is needed for growth and development
  2. Heavy menstrual bleeding
  3. Pregnant females as the baby increasethe iron requirements
  4. Diminished iron absorption due to gastrointestinal tractdiseases like celiac disease, achlorhydria, and following gastrectomy
  5. Internal bleeding is seenmostly in patients suffering from peptic ulcers, colonic polyps, diverticulosis, piles, bleeding varices, inflammatory bowel disease, hookworm infestation, and malignancy
  6. Other causes of abnormal bleeding like hemophilia and von Willebranddisease
  7. Vegetarians with only plant-basedfood with little to no meat consumption

Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia:

  1. Fatigue,lethargy, weakness
  2. Tachycardia, palpitationsand hyperdynamic circulation
  3. Pale cold skin
  4. Dizziness
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Brittle lusterless nails
  7. hair loss
  8. Angular stomatitis with red swollen patches around the lips
  9. Headaches
  10. Parastheia with a strange tingling sensation

Diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia:

A simple blood picture can show if you have iron deficiency anemia or not. a complete blood picture CBC with Hb level less than 13 gm/dl for men and less than 12 gm /dl for women is diagnostic for anemia and mean corpuscular volume MCV of less than 80 fl is diagnostic for iron deficiency anemia.

Your doctor may also ask for serum iron, total iron-binding capacity TIBC, ferritin levels to check the state of iron storage in the body along with other tests to identify the cause of the anemia and reach the source of bleeding.

Prevention of iron deficiency

Education and food diversity:

To correct any type of micronutrient deficiency people should be well educated about the importance of this element and the resources that are abundant with this element in order to be able to supplement themselves with it easily either through diet or medication. food diversity is one of the main ways of getting more iron in the diet by incorporating heme iron sources like red meats, poultry, and shellfish and nonheme iron from plant sources such as legumes and spinach along with the addition of fruits and vegetables that contain high content of vitamin c as it enhances the absorption of nonheme iron through increasing the acidity of the stomach.

Eliminating iron absorption inhibitors:

an important strategy to prevent getting iron deficiency anemia is eliminating all types of food that would hinder the absorption of iron like tea and coffee that contain tannin that inhibits iron absorption by almost 64% so it is highly advised to delay caffeinated drinks intake one to two hour after meals. another way to enhance iron content in food is by fermentation and processing of plant-based foods as this leads to the hydrolysis of phytic acids which are known to inhibit the absorption of nonheme iron and polyphenols present in plant foods that have the same effect as phytates. calcium also has shown inhibiting properties on both heme and nonheme iron absorption even the calcium in milk and cheese affects iron absorption. that is why it is best to take iron and calcium supplements at different times of the day to get the full benefit of each.

Iron supplementation:

According to the level of hemoglobin and the amount of ferritin in storage many people nowadays resort to having oral iron supplements in the form of ferrous salts such as ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate which are cheap and have higher bioavailability than other types of oral iron supplements there are also multivitamin tablets available which contain iron in them as it is frequently needed along with other important deficient minerals and vitamins but in lower concentrations. although it is best to be consumed on an empty stomach oral iron supplements usually cause epigastric pain, nausea, and constipation. this intolerance is best avoided by having the iron with meals three times a day for 3 _6 months till the anemia is corrected and the iron stores are replenished and in severe cases of anemia or people suffering from chronic blood loss or severe GIT diseases that lead to impaired absorption of oral preparation parenteral iron is best used to supply the body with adequate amounts of iron through either intramuscular injections or intravenous infusions.

Food fortification:

Food fortification is when food products are supplemented with iron but in lower doses than that present in drugs, it is highly beneficial and widely available in food items that are commercially linked to growing children as formulas, cereals, and wheat flour since they need the extra amount of iron in the food. many industries fortify their food to be more nutritious.

› Now, let’s focus on best sources of iron ‹

1) Liver

100 grams of beef liver contains 165 calories, 4.4 gm fats, 3.8 gm carbs,26 gm proteins

Beef liver is a superfood filled with nutritious elements from iron, vitamins B12, B2, A, magnesium, copper, and cobalamin it contains almost 90% of the RDI of iron.

It is a great source of protein to help build up muscles with a lower caloric intake and is one of the main sources of heme iron which is easily absorbed in the body with all of the packed vitamins it makes it essential to add into the diet but it should be brought from a safe source and not eaten excessively in pregnancy as it Carries the risk of getting toxoplasmosis that can lead to miscarriage or severe congenital anomalies in the fetus. it is also best avoided in people who suffer from gout as it is a major source of purines and uric acid which leads to flare-ups and joint inflammation.

It can be grilled, it can be cooked with onions to give it sweetness, it can be fried, or it can be chopped and added with different types of meat into meatloaves if you don’t really like the taste of it.