Did you know that, according to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is ranked as the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world? Because your body cannot produce this mineral on its own, it’s crucial that the foods you consume provide you with the recommended daily allowance. So just how much iron do you need per day? For men, it’s recommended you consume 8 milligrams daily, but for women ages 19-50, 18 milligrams is needed. Women need more iron than men to supplement for menstrual cycles. What does iron do for your body? Why is it so important? Iron is a component of hemoglobin, the protein found in red blood cells which is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs throughout the rest of your body. Without enough iron, your body will not be capable of producing enough oxygen-rich red blood cells, resulting in severe issues such as anemia.
There are many types of anemia, however the most common condition is caused by iron deficiencies. The following symptoms could indicate that you need more iron in your diet:
Shortness of Breath
Dry and Damaged Hair and Skin
Swelling and soreness of the tongue and mouth
Cold Hands and Feet
Frequent illness and infections
Strange Cravings, known as Pica, the desire to eat non food items such as ice, clay, dirt, chalk, or paper. *This symptom can occur during pregnancy!*
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your doctor and consider eating more iron-rich foods.
Many foods contain the mineral iron, but certain foods contain heme iron and others are high in nonheme iron. Heme iron is readily absorbed by the human body and can be found in foods such as meat, poultry, and seafood. Nonheme iron on the other hand is found in eggs and in plant-based foods. If you are vegetarian, vegan, or if you happen to just eat a lot of fruits and veggies, you may think that you are absorbing a sufficient amount of this vital mineral.
However, food sources that are high in nonheme iron need an extra boost of a certain vitamin to be absorbed by our bodies efficiently. Is this news to you? Break out the Vitamin C everyone - if you’re eating lots of spinach to boost your iron supply, you should be pairing it with some vitamin c rich strawberries so all that iron gets absorbed. If your grilling a steak- the vitamin c won’t make a difference, because the heme iron in your red meat will be absorbed by your body regardless. So now that you know all about iron, what it does, and how your body reacts to it with and without added vitamins, consider these food combinations that are rich in iron and rich in Vitamin c so you get the most out of your meals. Enjoy!
Iron/Vitamin C Combo recipes:
1. Raw spinach salad with strawberries and walnuts
2. Grilled tofu with grilled orange slices, bell peppers, and topped with sesame seeds
3. Hard boiled eggs with quinoa and grape tomatoes
4. Roasted Brussels sprouts with brown rice and shaved Parmesan cheese
5. Chopped raw kale salad with raisins and pumpkin seeds