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If you have an iron deficiency, you may be looking for food-based ways to increase your iron levels. These are great ideas for both adults and kids with low iron. It’s also really important for breastfeeding moms to make sure their iron intake is sufficient.
Types of Iron
It’s very important to understand the two different types of iron, heme and non-heme, because your body absorbs them differently. Heme iron is more easily absorbed than non-heme. All animal meats contain a combination of heme and non-heme iron. Plant products contain non-heme iron.
Sources of Iron
If you include meat in your diet, red meat is a great source of iron. Red meat is especially high in heme iron. If you need some new ideas, check out my favorite beef skillet recipes or ways to use different cuts of beef.
Beans give your body around 2-3 mg of iron per serving, which is great, and also because they’re pretty versatile, you can easily find a way to include more of them in your diet. In particular, try including pinto beans, chickpeas and lentils since they have the most iron content. Serve them with a rich source of vitamin C such as tomatoes, to help improve the absorption of the iron in the beans.
Dried fruits, especially raisins, apricots, prunes and dates contain good amounts of iron- as much as 3 mg per serving. Munch on some of these as a snack, or add them to homemade muffins or cookies for a nice flavor and texture. Dried fruits also offer a lot of other minerals and healthy fats, so they’re a great addition to your diet.
Most dark green leafy vegetables, particularly spinach, are excellent sources of iron. They contain non-heme iron, which is a form of iron that isn’t readily absorbed- just like beans do. Serve them with veggies that contain good amounts of vitamin C to help with absorption. If you aren’t a fan of spinach, consider including other greens like kale, collard greens and Swiss chard.
Do you love French fries? Give them a healthy twist by whipping up a batch of sweet potato fries! Not only do the fries taste delicious, but also offer a whopping 2.5 mg of iron for just half a cup of serving!
Quinoa is one of the top plant sources of iron. It offers around 8 mg of iron for just half a cup worth of serving and can be cooked and consumed just like rice.
Turkey is another great source of heme iron- it contains more than the other light meats. Turkey sandwiches can be a wonderful and easy lunch option. If you’re near the holidays, put that leftover turkey to use with these leftover turkey meal ideas.
Eggs are have a decent amount of iron. Making eggs a part of your meals should be super easy, since they are delicious and easy to cook. Team them up with a glass of orange juice for Vitamin C.