Iron Man. Iron fist. Iron clad. What do these three have in common? They all represent strength and energy – and they contain the word ‘iron’. Well that’s what the mineral does for our body too when we eat it.
Margie Saidel, R.D. says that Iron is one of the most important nutrients our body needs to function. It is mainly found inside a protein in blood called hemoglobin which carried oxygen to all cells and tissues. This makes it all the more important for people who exercise regularly and need more efficient supply of oxygen to the muscles.
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t make iron so we must rely on our diet for this essential nutrient. An average-sized adult woman under the age of 50 needs approximately 18 milligrams of iron every day. While it is possible to fulfill your iron requirement through supplements, Saidel says that it is best to get this nutrient from different animal and plant-based foods.
Contrary to popular belief, eating red meat isn’t the only way to get iron in your diet. There are plenty of plant-based foods that rich in this nutrient. However, iron found in plants is called non-heme iron, which is slightly different than the iron found in meat.
Plant-based iron doesn’t absorb as well inside our bodies which is why we need to consume far more of it to fulfill the daily requirement. The National Institues of Health says that vegetarians and vegans need at least 32 milligrams of iron every day, although not all of it is absorbed in their bodies.
Need some inspiration for an iron-rich dinner tonight? Here are some of the best foods that are high in this nutrient:
Lentils – 7 mg of Iron per serving
Lentils are an amazingly versatile plant-based food that can be turned into soups, stir-fries and curries. Lentils are low in fat, but high in protein, fiber and iron. Just one serving of it contains 7 mg of iron, 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber.
Fortified oats – 14 mg of Iron per serving
Fortified oats are the most iron-rich food on this list. Not only are they a good source of complex carbohydrates and fiber, but they’re also a great breakfast option for those on a vegan or gluten-free diet.
Spinach – 6 mg of Iron per serving
There’s a reason why Popeye ate nothing but spinach all day – because it is extremely rich in iron! Just a serving of this dark leafy green can give you 6 mg of iron. There are plenty of other important nutrients in spinach as well. One cup of cooked spinach contains 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber along with calcium, vitamin A and potassium.
Mussels – 6 mg of Iron per serving
Here’s another reason to the French classic mussel and potato dish called moules et frites: mussels are high in iron and contain up to three times your daily requirement of B12. A 3-ounce serving of this delicious seafood has a whopping 20 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
White rice – 4 mg of Iron per serving
Here’s an excuse to have sushi for dinner tonight: The rice layer around it is packed with iron. A half-cup serving of rice (uncooked) has 4 mg of iron, 6 grams of protein and 1.2 grams of fiber.
Beef – 2 mg of Iron per serving
Not only does beef contain all the essential amino acids for quick muscle growth, it is also high in iron content which will give you strength and stamina even in the toughest workout session. A 4-ounce serving of beef has 2 mg of iron and 25 grams of protein.
Kidney Beans – 4 mg of Iron per serving
Big things comes in small packages – that’s definitely true for kidney beans that are small in size but contain 4 mg of iron, 15 grams of fiber and 21 grams of protein per one can.