Iron is an important mineral used by the body to produce red blood cells or more specifically, the protein in red blood cells. Iron in the body helps the blood to carry oxygen throughout the body and is vital for the proper functioning of the muscles, tissues and other systems throughout the body. An iron deficiency can cause poor overall health, fatigue, shortness of breath, poor attention span and many other learning and physical problems. The daily recommended intake for iron is 8mg for men and 18mg for women age eighteen and over. In order to get enough daily iron, supplements are taken by many on a daily basis. You can however, get adequate amounts of iron in the foods that you eat provided you choose iron rich foods.
Shellfish provide nearly 25mg of iron per serving and are the most recommended foods for those who suffer from low iron levels. Eating shellfish just three days each week can significantly increase the amount of iron in your blood. In addition to shellfish, clams provide an excellent source of iron as well. Clams contain not only high levels of iron but high levels of Vitamin B12 and potassium as well. Many cereals are good sources of iron as well. You should note that hot cereals typically provide less iron than cold cereals. Most cold cereals range in iron content from just over 1 to more than 21 mg while hot cereals range from 5 to 8mg per serving. Many brands of fortified cereals also provide calcium and other vitamins.
Most bread that is made from refined flour as well as pasta and white rice are also enriched with iron. Refined flours typically have iron included as well as other minerals such as niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. When shopping, check to see if the food products you are purchasing are enriched, meaning that they contain added amounts of iron and other minerals.
Certain animal parts like the livers and the giblets are also high in iron levels. Livers and giblets on most animals typically offer between five and nine mg of iron in each three ounce serving. Soybeans are also fairly high in iron, containing around four mg per serving. Keep in mind however that soy plants do contain plant estrogens that can cause potential health risks when eaten in larger doses, particularly when ingested by children. Pumpkin and squash seeds provide iron as well. Roasting these seeds is an excellent way to prepare them and make them tasty for the entire family. Squash and pumpkin seeds provide more than four mg of iron per serving. Other foods that you can add to your daily diet to increase your iron level include molasses, spinach and lentils.
It is important to understand that most foods will lose vital minerals such as iron when they are cooked. In order to preserve the iron in your foods it is best to cook them in the least amount of water necessary and for the shortest amount of time. Cooking fresh vegetables in shallow water and only until done will help to seal in the iron and other vital nutrients found naturally in the foods.
Enriched or fortified bread, cereals, orange juice and other foods are readily available today. When you are shopping be certain to pay attention to the labels of the foods that you are purchasing to see how much iron is in each serving. Your daily diet is the best way to get the iron that you need daily. If you cannot get enough iron from your foods, your doctor will likely recommend and iron supplement that you should take daily to prevent anemia or iron deficiency.