Best Sources of Iron

Eating foods that are high in iron can help to prevent conditions such as impaired intellectual development in children, pregnancy complications, and impaired immune system function. Foods that are high in iron include: meat, poultry, fish, black-strap molasses, lentils, kidney beans, and prunes. Heme iron (from meat, fish, and poultry) is better absorbed than non-heme iron (from plants and dairy).

What is Iron?

Iron, an essential mineral, is a key element in the metabolism of almost all living organisms.

Function of Iron:

Much of the body’s iron is attached to hemoglobin molecules in red blood cells, and thereby delivers oxygen to all of the tissues. The extra iron is stored in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and muscles.

Deficiency of Iron:

Individuals who are at highest risk of iron deficiency include, pregnant women, young women during their reproductive years, and children. Significant iron deficiency leads to anemia. Anemia can be mild, moderate, or severe. Iron deficiency anemia can occur due to several circumstances including: blood loss (such as that from a bleeding ulcer, menstruation, severe trauma, surgery, or a malignant tumor); pregnancy; and rapid growth during infancy, early childhood, and adolescence.

Symptoms of anemia include weakness and fatigue. People with severe anemia also experience shortness of breath. Symptoms of mild anemia can be vague.

Note: A variety of medical conditions can lead to the symptoms mentioned above. Therefore, it is important to have a physician evaluate them so that appropriate medical care can be given.

Toxicity (Iron Overdose):

Common side effects that are associated with taking iron supplements include stomach discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn. Consuming excessive amounts of iron over a long period of time can lead to iron overload disease. Symptoms of iron overload disease include skin discoloration, diabetes, liver damage, and other complications. Severe iron toxicity can lead to destruction of cells in the gastrointestinal tract, which can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and even death. All supplements should be kept in childproof bottles and out of children’s reach.

Caution: Eating natural foods that are high in iron is the safest and healthiest way to get an adequate supply of the nutrient. Due to risk of toxicity, individuals should always consult with a knowledgeable healthcare provider before starting doses of supplements. Before giving supplements to children, it is recommended that you first consult with their pediatrician. Also, some supplements may interfere with medications. If you are taking medication, it is recommended that you consult with your physician before taking any supplements. All supplements should be kept in childproof bottles and out of children’s reach.

Iron Food Chart (List of Foods High in Iron):

Beef , cooked, 3 ounces – (2.32 mg)
Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces – (1.13 mg)
Oysters 6 medium – (5.04 mg)
Shrimp, cooked, 8 large – (1.36 mg)
Tuna, light, canned, 3 ounces – (1.30 mg)
Black-strap molasses 1 tablespoon – (3.50 mg)
Raisin bran cereal, dry, 1 cup – (5.79-18.00 mg)
Raisins, seedless, 1 small box ~1.5 ounces – (0.81 mg)
Prune juice 6 fluid ounces – (2.28 mg)
Prunes, dried plums, 5 – (0.45 mg)
Potato, with skin, baked, 1 medium – (1.87 mg)
Kidney beans, cooked, 1/2 cup – (1.97 mg)
Lentils, cooked, 1/2 cup – (3.30 mg)
Tofu, firm, 1/4 block ~1/3 cup – (2.15 mg)
Cashew nuts 1 ounce – (1.89 mg)

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