The 6 Best Sources of Iron – Food, Supplements

Did you know that iron is one of the key nutrients that our bodies need to function properly, regardless of our BMI?

To stay optimally healthy, we need to get it from the right source and maintain the levels steady.

According to UNICEF, around 4 to 5 billion individuals lack iron, and this makes it one of the most common deficiencies of nutrients on a global level. [1]

The best iron is the one we acquire from foods and supplements.

This is why our guide will be focused on helping you learn the following things:

  • Why iron is pivotal for our health
  • Which are the best food sources
  • Which are the best iron supplements

Iron is pivotal for our health and well-being as it’s a component of haemoglobin- a substance in our red blood cells and it helps in the transportation of oxygen from the lungs throughout the body.

When we don’t have sufficient amounts of it, our body can’t produce enough red blood cells!

This nutrient plays a major role in our metabolism, immunity, and cognitive function, and maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. [2]

Keep reading our guide to learn more about how to get it through your diet and supplementation and optimize your bodily functions!

6 Best Sources of Iron: Foods & Supplements

1. Spinach

This green veggie has a lot of health advantages to offer.

It’s low in calories (great for people with higher BMI who want to shed pounds). Around 100 grams of spinach is a good source of around 2.7 mg of iron. [3]

Though it’s the non-heme iron which is harder to absorb, it’s also abundant in vitamin C which betters the absorption.

  • Spinach is rich in iron
  • Spinach has non-heme iron & vitamin C
  • Numerous ways to add it to your diet

Moreover, spinach will supply us with other important nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. And, it’s very easily incorporated in any diet.

There are numerous ways you can enjoy it and reap its benefits starting today, for example, raw in salads and smoothies, stir-fried with other veggies, mixed with pasta, baked, in soups, etc.

This dark green leafy vegetable grows in the colder months and you can then buy it fresh; however, when there’s not much of it available fresh, you can still find delicious frozen spinach- it’s great for stir-fries, soups, smoothies, and juices.

2. Legumes

Legumes are rich in nutrients and the most popular legumes are lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, and soybeans.

They’re an awesome source of iron, particularly for people following a plant-based diet and those with a deficiency. [4]

They will also nourish your body with other pivotal nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, and folate.

  • Legumes are a great source of non-heme iron
  • Legumes are rich in other nutrients too
  • Can help with weight loss

Legumes may also be beneficial for people with diabetes because they help lower inflammation, as well as for people with higher BMIs- they can help you shed pounds thanks to their fiber.

It will keep you full longer and prevent you from overeating.

You can make soups or stews with them, bake them, toss them cooked in salads, mash them cooked and make homemade spreads and dips, etc.

A cup of lentils will provide you with 6.6 mg of iron.

If you want to maximize your absorption of this nutrient from legumes, make sure you eat it together with vitamins C, for example, from greens, citrus fruits or tomatoes.

3. Shellfish

Shellfish is another tasty and nourishing source. Clams, mussels, and oysters are also good choices if you need to increase your levels. [5]

A 100 gram serving of clams can supply you with up to 3 mg of heme iron which is easier-to-absorb than the one found in plants. They’re also rich in fats, protein, and minerals.

  • Shellfish contains heme iron
  • Shellfish can be prepared in different ways
  • Rich in other nutrients

When you eat them regularly, you can strengthen your immunity, encourage weight loss (good for people with higher BMI), and better your brain and heart health.

You can steam-cook, fry, grill or bake them.

But, be cautious when consuming shellfish- they’re one of the top 8 food allergens in the US and although the allergy usually develops in adulthood, it can also happen in children!

The side effects can range from milder like vomiting and diarrhea to more severe ones like shortness of breath and anaphylactic shock which requires immediate medical treatment.

Despite concerns about toxins and mercury in some types of fish and shellfish, the advantages of consuming seafood outweigh them, according to Health Line.

4. Turkey meat

Turkey meat is a yummy and healthy food and an excellent source of iron, particularly the dark turkey one.

From 100 grams of dark turkey, you get 1.43 mg of iron whereas a 100 gram portion of white turkey meat has only 0.7 mgs. [6]

This meat will also provide you with other important nutrients – amazing 28 grams of protein per a serving, as well as various B vitamins and minerals, including selenium and zinc.

  • Turkey meat is a healthy & delicious source of iron
  • The dark meat is higher in this nutrient than the white
  • Helps with weight loss too

People with higher BMI will definitely benefit from this high protein food as it can help with weight loss by keeping you sated for longer and boosting your metabolism.

What’s more, protein is necessary for prevention of muscle loss which isn’t uncommon during weight loss and during the natural process of aging.

5. Iron Salts or Iron Pills

Iron salts are liquid solutions commonly prescribed to patients in cases of iron deficiency. These supplements contain 5 to 13 percent ferrous or ferric iron. [7]

The ferrous one is considered to be more bioavailable than ferric.

They’re an economical and effective medication to relieve anemia with the ferrous sulphate being the most commonly used among people, regardless of their BMIs.

  • Iron salts or pills are common supplements
  • The ferrous one is better absorbable
  • Available in different forms

Ferrous iron is most commonly taken in the forms of ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulphate, and ferrous gluconate.

Before you decide on these supplements, consult your physician about the appropriate dosage to make sure you’re meeting your needs.

They’re available in different forms, including liquids, tablets, and capsules. [8] Slow release tablets and capsules are considered to be better tolerated by the stomach.

Possible side effect of taking these supplements is constipation.

To prevent it or alleviate it, stay well hydrated and boost your fiber consumption. In most people, the blood counts will improve within a period of 2 months.

6. Vitamin C

In order to boost the absorption of iron in the body, we need sufficient vitamin C.

We can acquire this essential vitamin from certain foods, as well as from supplements.

Vitamin C can be beneficial for people with anemia because it ‘catches’ the non-heme iron and makes sure it’s stored in a more easily absorbable form in the body. [9]

  • Vitamin C is necessary boosts the iron absorption
  • It’s available in different forms
  • Can be acquired through foods & supplements

To get more vitamin C in your diet, make sure you get it from healthy food sources like dark green leafy veggies, citrus fruits, strawberries, melons, etc.

Also, you can opt for quality beneficial vitamin C supplements. They can be found in numerous different forms, including tablets, powder, granules, etc.

The recommended daily intake of this vitamin for adult men and women is 2000 mg. Consult your doctor prior to ensure you’re getting the right dosage of iron and vitamin C.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of our BMI, we need iron to stay healthy.

As it can only be acquired from foods and supplements and not produced naturally in our body, a lot of people often don’t meet the needs, which may further result in deficiencies.

This is why we need to be well-aware of the best sources of this essential nutrient, both foods and supplements and add them to our diets properly!

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