We all know iron is important in our diet, but how much do we really know about it? Based on how many of my clients are iron deficient tells me that we absolutely do not know enough. In order to ensure the body is supplied with an adequate amount, it is important to understand what iron does, where it comes from and how much we need. Read more to get the inside scoop on iron.
Iron is an essential mineral, which means you have to have it to live. It is utilized by every single cell in our body and is primarily responsible for helping our blood and muscles deliver oxygen throughout the body. This is why a lack of iron leads to symptoms of fatigue, headaches, depression and being susceptible to getting sick. It’s pretty hard for your brain to be able to operate when it’s not getting enough oxygen!
Another very critical component of iron is that we need it to metabolize B Vitamins. Why is this important? You need your B Vitamins because they are responsible for converting your food into fuel. This is absolutely essential for supporting weight loss, speeding up your metabolism and for high energy levels. Dieters, vegetarians and athletes are most likely to be deficient, so listen up if this is you. Those that are pregnant also have an increased requirement, so make sure you check the chart below to see how much you need every day.
The recommended intake for iron is:
- Kids 1-3 years old: 7 mg/day
- Kids 4-8 years old: 10 mg/day
- Teenagers 9 – 13: 8 mg/day
- Teenagers 14 – 18: 11 mg/day for boys & 15 mg/day for girls
- Males 19+: 8 mg/day
- Females 19-50: 18 mg/day
- Females 51+: 8 mg/day
- Pregnant Females: 27 mg/day
These days, there are so many foods fortified with iron that it blows my mind. But remember, your body is always going to benefit more from the real natural source of a nutrient. So I like to get my iron from whole foods or supplements. My favorites are Floradix (doesn’t make you constipated!) or GenEssentials Greens because it has 11 mg in one scoop. Take a look at foods that contain a high amount of iron!
Dark, leafy greens (spinach, collards, kale-all best lightly steamed), egg yolks, turkey, lean beef, round steak, chicken, beans, lentils, chick peas, soybeans, artichokes, asparagus, squash, peas, baked potato, fish, oysters, clams, scallops, oats, quinoa, dried fruit (apricots, prunes, raisins, plums), Brewer’s yeast, kelp, seeds (pumpkin, squash, sunflower), liver, blackstrap molasses, and wheat bran.
This alone will start to really make a difference on how healthy you feel, but you can also take it a step further and incorporate foods that enhance iron absorption, as well as avoid the inhibitors. This is an easy guide for both categories:
Iron Absorption Enhancers
- Fruits: orange, orange Juice, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapefruit, etc.
- Vegetables: broccoli, brussel sprouts, tomato, tomato juice, potato, green and red peppers
- White wine
Iron Absorption Inhibitors
- Red Wine, coffee and tea
- Vegetables: spinach, chard, beet greens, rhubarb and sweet potato (steaming does help!)
- Whole grains and bran
- Isolated soy ingredients, like products made with soy flour and isolated soy protein concentrate
The human body is truly amazing in all of its complexity and how it works together. We need to understand that any time we are experiencing a negative symptom, this is our body’s way of telling us it needs something. Make sure you are getting enough iron and watch your mood improve, energy levels increase, and your mental focus sharpen. You will be so thankful that you got the inside scoop on iron!
*The information on this site is designed for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Thank you!
~by Kimberly Olson