Foods rich in iron

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common disease caused by a lack of micronutrients.

Children and women of childbearing age are most affected. This type of anemia develops due to a lack of iron in the diet, after severe blood loss, or as a result of vitamin C deficiency. There are other types of anemia, such as megaloblastic anemia, caused by insufficient intake of vitamin B12 and folic acid.

The main task of iron in the body is to participate in the formation of hemoglobin, which concentrates about two-thirds of all Fe and carries out gas exchange. Another quarter of the iron reserves are stored in the ferritin protein and about 5% - in the composition of other proteins.

Benefits for the body

Iron obtained from food provides a number of processes in the human body. Given the special significance of the substance, it is worth dwelling on its functions in more detail.

Formation of hemoglobin

This ability is one of the main functions of ferrum. A person constantly needs continuously functioning hemoglobin, especially against the background of blood loss as a result of even minor external or internal bleeding, its level is reduced.

In particular, women regularly experience significant blood loss, so they are more prone to anemia than men. The problem is especially pronounced with improper, unbalanced nutrition.

In addition, it is iron in the composition of hemoglobin that transports oxygen to all cells of the body.

For the formation of muscles

In muscle tissue, iron plays the role of an oxygen supplier, without which the process of their contraction is impossible. If the muscles do not contract and relax, movement will become impossible.

Ferrum affects muscle tone and elasticity, and weakness is a typical symptom of iron deficiency.

For the brain

The ability to carry oxygen throughout the body makes iron an indispensable trace element for the full functioning of the brain. Fe deficiency increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, dementia and other diseases caused by impaired brain activity.

Restless legs syndrome

Mostresearchers agree that the reason for the development of this sensorimotor disease in some cases is insufficient iron intake. Deficiency causes muscle spasms, which increase during rest (sleep, sitting).

Maintaining a healthy body temperature

Interestingly, iron has the ability to regulate body temperature. And the adequacy of the flow of enzymatic and metabolic processes depends on its stability.

To maintain well-being

Eliminates chronic fatigue in men and women, which is also a consequence of low hemoglobin.

Strengthening the immune system

Ferrum plays a key role in the functioning of the immune system. An organism saturated with iron in sufficient volume is able to more actively fight infectious diseases. In addition, the speed of wound healing depends on iron.

Healthy Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the female body needs increased blood volumes and red blood cells (to supply the growing fetus). Therefore, the need for a compound in pregnant women increases. Iron deficiency increases the risk of preterm birth, provokes underweight in the newborn and disorders in its development.

In addition, iron can influence energy metabolism, enzymatic activity, relieve insomnia, increase concentration.

Why deficiency is dangerous

Anemia is usually the result of Fe deficiency. The main symptoms of iron deficiency are:

  • fatigue;
  • muscle weakness;
  • shortness of breath on light exertion;
  • taste perversion;
  • heavy menstrual bleeding in women (can be considered as a symptom and cause at the same time).

As already noted, women are more prone to developing iron deficiency. Almost 10% of the fairer sex of childbearing age suffer from a lack of this trace element. But in men (and in women after menopause), ferrum deficiency anemia is less common. Children are also at risk for developing pathology.

Factors contributing to the development of iron deficiency

Most common causes:

  1. Increased blood loss (including, in donors) increase the body's need for iron.
  2. Strength and endurance training requires almost doubling the daily amount of ferrum.
  3. Mental activity contributes to the faster consumption of iron reserves.
  4. Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, gastritis with low acidity, autoimmune bowel diseases can causepoor absorption of iron.

Combination with other nutrients

Vitamin C. The use of ascorbic acid along with iron-containing foods contributes to increased absorption of iron. For example, if you add half a grapefruit to the Fe diet, the body will absorb three times more iron. Therefore, it is important that the menu is enriched not only with iron, but also with vitamin C. However, it is worth paying attention: ascorbic acid has a stronger effect on the absorption of iron from plants than on the absorption of ferrum of animal origin.

Vitamin A. Retinol deficiency blocks the body's ability to use iron stores to form red blood cells.

Copper. This trace element, as you know, is necessary for the transport of nutrients from storage sites to cells and organs. With a lack of copper, iron loses its ability to move, which as a result leads to the development of anemia. Would you like to resupply Ferrum and Copper at the same time? Beans, soybeans and lentils should regularly appear on your table.

It is also important to combine foods rich in iron with foods containing B vitamins (thanks to ferrum, B-substances acquire increased chemical activity).

Many food constituents can inhibit (weaken) iron absorption by binding iron in the gastrointestinal tract. A number of such ingredients are found in whole grains and black tea. However, studies have shown that it is difficult for a healthy person to get harm from these substances. But in people with existing iron absorption disorders or with advanced anemia, absorption worsens even more.

It is also important to know that calcium almost completely blocks the absorption of iron. Hence the recommendation: for the normal absorption of ferrum, iron-containing foods should be consumed separately from dairy foods and other foods rich in calcium.

Iron requirements of the body

The daily iron requirement for adults ranges from 10-30 mg.

The acceptable upper limit for dietitians is 45 mg of Fe. At the same time, the daily rate for women is slightly higher than for men. This is due to physiological processes: from 10 to 40 mg of iron are lost monthly with menstrual blood. With age, the needs of the female body in the ferrum are reduced.

Iron overdose is almost never observed in healthy people. People with hemochromatosis (a genetic disorder in which the percentage of iron absorption from food is 3-4 times higher than in healthy people) are at high risk of poisoning. Excessive accumulation of ferrum in the body can activate free radicals (damage the cells of the liver, heart, pancreas, increase the risk of developing cancer ).

Products containing ferrum

There are 2 types of iron in food: heme and non-heme. The first option is ferrum, which is part of hemoglobin. Its sources are all animal foods and seafood. Heme iron is absorbed faster and easier by the body. Non-heme iron is an element derived from plant foods. Only partially used for hemoglobin formation, and then only in combination with vitamin C.

For maximum benefit, nutritionists recommend combining animal and plant products. In this way, it is easy to increase the absorption of ferrum (sometimes up to 400%).

Many people know that meat, especially red varieties, as well as offal, are the best sources of iron.

A plant-based diet can also provide sufficient iron. True, for this it is important to eat a variety of types of food of non-animal origin.

Research partially destroys the theory that plants cannot provide humans with the necessary amount of iron. Many vegetarian foods contain iron in excess of 10% of the daily value, and a serving of spinach or lentils will provide a third of the daily value.

A plant-based diet is lower in calories and fat, making it ideal for weight and health conscious people. But besides this, adherents of vegetarianism do not deny that the recommended daily intake of iron, obtained exclusively from plant foods, should be about one and a half times higher than that of meat-eaters.

Among plant foods, legumes and green leafy vegetables are the best sources of iron. Whole grains also have good nutritional properties and good reserves of ferrum. And the most unexpected source of iron for many is sugar cane molasses. Just 1 teaspoon of this product contains almost 1 milligram of iron. This figure is significantly higher than that of other sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, brown sugar.

To make it easier to understand which foods are the most saturated with iron, we offer a table. Using this knowledge, it is easy to avoid iron deficiency anemia.

Best Sources of Heme Iron
Product Name Quantity Iron content (mg)
Pork liver 200 g 61.4
Beef liver 200 g 14
Beef kidneys 200 g 14
Mussels 200 g 13.6
Oysters 200 g 12
Heart 200 g 12.6
Rabbit meat 200 g 9
Turkey 200 g 8
Lamb 200 g 6.2
Chicken 200 g 5
Mackerel 200 g 5
Ground beef (lean) 200 g 4
Herring 200 g ) 2
Chicken egg 1 piece 1
Quail eggs 1 piece 0.32
Black caviar 10 g 0.25
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Best sources of non-heme iron
Product name Amount Iron content (mg)
Peanuts 200 g 120
Soy 200 g 10.4
Beans (lima) 200 g 8.89
Potato 200 g 8.3
White beans 200 g 6.93
Beans 200g 6.61
Lentils 200 g 6.59
Spinach 200 g 6.43
Beets (tops) 200 g 5.4
Sesame 0.25 cup 5.24
Chickpeas 200 g 4.74
Romaine lettuce 200 g 4.2
Chard 200 g 3.96
Asparagus 200 g 3.4
Brussels sprouts 200 g 3.2
Pumpkin seeds 0.25 cup 2.84
Cumin 2 tsp. 2.79
Beets 200 g 2.68
Turnip 200 g 2.3
Leek 200 g 2.28
White cabbage 200 g 2.2
Green peas 200 g 2.12
Broccoli 200 g 2.1
Olives 200 g 2.1
Courgette ) 200 g 1.3
Tomatoes 200 g 0.9
Parsley 10 g 0.5
Chili 10 mg 1, 14
Oregano 2 tsp. 0.74
Basil 10 g 0.31
Black Pepper 2 tsp. 0.56

How to save iron in food

Among the advantages of iron found in foods of animal origin is high heat stability. But vegetable ferrum does not tolerate mechanical processing or cooking. An example is whole grains, which lose almost three-quarters of their Fe reserves during processing into flour.

If we talk about cooking, then in this case the iron does not evaporate from the product - it partially passes into water, in which the vegetable was cooked. It's also important to know a few tricks to help keep the iron in your meals.

1. Minimize wastage by reducing cooking time and using as little water as possible. Example: Spinach cooked for 3 minutes in a large pot loses almost 90% of its iron.

2. Cast iron cookware is able to saturate foods with additional iron. These portions can be quite small - from 1 to 2 milligrams, but the reality of such a process has already been proven. Moreover, experiments have shown that acidic products more intensively absorb ferrum from such containers.

Iron absorption

But even if the product contains mind-boggling reserves of iron, this does not mean that all this wealth will pass into the body. The absorption of ferrum from different foods occurs with a certain intensity. So, a person will draw out about 20% of the available iron from meat, a little more than 10% from fish. Beans will give 7%, nuts - 6, andwhen consuming fruits, legumes and eggs, you should not count on more than 3 percent absorption of ferrum. Least of all - only 1 percent of iron - can be obtained from cooked cereals.

Iron deficiency anemia is a serious problem, leading to many associated diseases. But you can avoid it if you remember the role of proper nutrition.