ast month I posted a story about what I would be making for dinner. I made the “lame” excuse that I was going to make STEAK because I needed some Iron.. then I laughed it off telling all of you guys “to know better”, because “you can get iron from a bunch of different things that are not the steak”.

An Iron-Clad Diet

Iron-Clad Diet

 

A few of you actually messaged me and asked me what other foods were high in Iron, and because of that, I’ve decided to write this Iron-Clad Diet Post! Pun intended ha!

     First of all, what is iron and why do we need it?

An Iron-Clad Diet

First and foremost it’s a mineral, which our body needs! But why do we need it? Our red blood cells have a protein called hemoglobin, and at the center of it, is Iron (Fe). An Iron-Clad Diet

Without iron, we cannot make hemoglobin.

Why is this bad?

This protein helps our red blood cells carry oxygen from our lungs to our tissues

(Heart, Kidneys, Liver, Intestines…MUSCLES!).

healthy way of living

Most of our iron is found in hemoglobin, which is carried around by our red blood cells, another portion is in stored for later use, and an even smaller portion is held in myoglobin (a protein found in muscle).

An Iron-Clad DietIf you’re low in iron, you can have what’s called iron deficiency anemia.

 It can present with:

  • Fatigue,
  • Exercise intolerance,
  • Weakness,
  • Even chest pain (because your heart NEEDS oxygen and without it you can cause heart damage).

So…YES… We NEED iron!

healthy way of livingBut do we HAVE to get it from STEAK? Ummm…. NO! There are so many other things you can eat to get your iron!

It’s important to know though, that there are two types of iron.

  • Heme iron, which you find in red meat and fish.

 

2 – Non-heme iron, which you find in veggies, legumes, nuts, etc.

Heme iron has higher bioavailability, meaning, more accessible for use.

Whereas non-heme iron is less bioavailable.  You’d need to eat more veggies, legumes, and nuts to reach the same level of iron you would get from a steak or seafood.

Another thing to know is that certain compounds present in cereals and legumes actually slow down the absorption of non-heme iron, whereas Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), poultry, fish and meat

enhance the absorption of non-heme iron.   These don’t really pose any issues if you’re eating a balanced diet including animal protein.  Those more likely to be affected are vegetarians and vegans, who completely eliminate animal proteins from their diet.

So let’s talk about how much Iron you “need” a day, and where you can find it!

Recommended iron requirements are about 1.8 times higher in vegetarians.  Which is any long term vegetarians should consider iron supplements.

On average, for an adult, the required iron intake per day is 8-11mg/day for males and 15-18mg/day for females…. Especially during their time of the month.

These recommendations actually increase to a whopping 27mg per day if you’re pregnant. Hence prenatal vitamins containing iron.

Below is a list of the amount of iron in certain foods:

healthy way of living

But you can always check out the NIH to see a bigger list.

  • Breakfast cereals fortified with iron have: 18mg per serving
  • Dark Chocolate 3 oz: 7mg per serving… no wonder you crave chocolate during your time of the month? Maybe.
  • Oysters 3oz: 8mg per serving
  • Beef 150g: 4.9mg/serving
  • Pistachios 60g: 4mg/serving
  • Pork 150g: 3.9mg/serving
  • Lentils: 3mg per ½ cup
  • Spinach (boiled and drained): 3mg per ½ cup.
  • Kidney beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, potato: 2mg per serving
  • Milk has 0mg of iron
  • Breast milk has iron, but not enough to meet the requirements of a 4-6month old infant.
  • Nuts, turkey, rice, chicken with skin, broccoli have about 1mg per serving.

Bottom line is: You can get iron from other types of foods.

Not all iron is created equal.  Having a balanced diet and eating meat and seafood in moderation helps the absorption of iron from legumes and veggies.  This is why I have mentioned many times in my stories that although I follow a predominantly vegan diet when I can, I will consume meat, seafood, and poultry.

I do respect and appreciate those who follow full vegetarian diets and vegan diets for animal rights or religious or any other reason, but I do ask that you see your physician at least annually so that they can follow your health and especially iron levels so you can feel your best and keep living a healthy lifestyle!

 

And don’t miss out Benefits of Apple Cider

8 COMMENTS

  1. I never even knew there was a difference in iron as one is Heme and one is Non-Heme! Thanks for bringing this to attention. My daughter is vegan and thinks the small amount of spinach she eats will suffice the requirements, but I’ve always said I think she really needs to up her plant based sources.

  2. So glad to see someone who eats mostly vegan but understands the importance of nutrients in meat. I am the same way. I tried going 100% vegan even with supplements, and I nearly passed out after a few weeks. It doesn’t agree with my body. But if I eat meat a few times a week, I’m good to go!

  3. I’m interested in eating a healthy diet, but I have a weak spot for red meat when it comes to food. Your article was a nice overview of where people can get the right amount of iron in foods other than meat. As you explained, if you’re going to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, you need to be aware of the need for extra amounts of iron via vegetables, nuts, etc. Speaking of which, I have trouble digesting nuts and seeds and wonder if there are any tasty alternatives (besides dark chocolate) for iron? If I’m going to cut back on the red meat, I’d like to know my options for maintaining maximum wellness.

    • Eating animal protein like chicken or turkey while you eat iron from other foods will help you absorb more of it. You can still eat meat.. just not every day because there is an increased risk of colon cancer. Your doctor will let you know when it is time to screen for it with a colonoscopy. All you’ve got to do is make sure to eat a balanced diet from here until then. moderation is key 🙂

  4. Good to know that Vitamin C enhances absorption of iron. Never knew legumes could slow down absorption! I’m actually not a vegetarian anymore due to anemia issues.

    That steak looks tasty! Now I must have a steak, lol.

  5. I felt terrible on iron supplements (I’m wondering now if there was an absorption issue or conversion issue). This is what made me revert back to an omnivore diet. I love the vegan diet, and like you, I still eat mostly vegan.

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