Iron is essential for various bodily functions, including the oxygenation of cells and tissue. It is a crucial component of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. It is also essential for energy production, immune function, and proper growth and development. A nutrient deficiency can result in fatigue, weakness, and reduced immunity. A diet high in iron-rich foods can help overcome these symptoms.
Your body contains two types of iron — heme iron from animal sources and non-heme iron from plant sources. According to the NIH, consuming both forms of iron is essential for optimal health.
Heme iron is found mainly in meat pou,ltry, and eggs. Fish and seafood are also good sources of nutrients. Other protein-rich foods with iron include legumes (kidney, pinto, and fava beans) and dark leafy vegetables such as dandelion greens, collard greens, and spinach. For maximum absorption, pair these foods with a vitamin C source, which helps increase their iron content.
Non-heme iron is found in various foods, including beans, nuts, seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds), whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals. According to the NIH, these foods are best absorbed when cooked, which increases their availability. You can find the amount of iron in your favorite foods by reading the nutrition facts label. Look for the term “percent daily value” on the table and note that food with a higher percent DV contains more iron than food with less iron.
Aside from its role in oxygen transport, iron is critical for several other bodily functions, including immune function and brain health. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygenated blood to function correctly and prevent cognitive complications like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Regardless of the season, consuming iron-rich foods generally benefits your health, but it may be essential during the winter. That’s because if you’re spending more time indoors, your risk of developing seasonal allergies, typically worse in the fall and spring, is higher.
You can protect yourself against seasonal allergies by avoiding foods that contain common allergens, such as dairy, gluten, and soy. You can also reduce your allergy risk by consuming foods naturally high in iron, such as red meat, poultry, and eggs.
One in eight people aged two years and older do not consume enough iron on average to meet their needs. To help overcome this, make sure to incorporate more iron-rich foods into your daily routine – the following are some excellent options: