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Iron is one of the key dietary minerals required for normal bodily functions. This nutrient is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, the red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body. Deficiency of this nutrient may lead to weight loss and anemia. Depletion of iron stores in our body results in iron deficiency.

Iron Deficiency And Its Causes
Iron deficiency occurs in all people whose diet includes fewer amounts of iron supplies. Women are more susceptible to iron deficiency. There are a number of factors that contribute to low iron levels.


Lack of iron in diet may lead to iron deficiency. This is more common among children and young women who consume very low levels of iron-rich foods.


Pregnancy - Women who are of child-bearing age may be lacking in iron nutrients due to menstruation. Even breast feeding mothers are at the risk of iron deficiency. These women may require 2 times as much iron as in men. Pregnant women and breast feeding mothers should eat more iron rich foods else they may end up becoming anemic.


Milk - Cow's milk is a poor source of iron and newborn babies who are given cow's milk or formula cow's milk are at the risk of iron deficiency.


Bleeding or Blood loss is the common reason for iron deficiency. Heavy menstrual periods may cause anemia. Blood loss can also be caused by internal bleeding, usually in the digestive tract. A stomach ulcer, ulcerative colitis, cancer, or taking aspirin or similar medicines for a long time can cause bleeding in the stomach or intestines. It is therefore important to identify the cause for iron deficiency.


Food Rich in Iron
If your iron level is low, your dietitian may advice you to take iron rich foods in addition to iron/multivitamin pills. There are two types of iron in foods - heme and non-heme iron. Although iron is found in a variety of foods and supplements, its availability to the body varies significantly depending on the type of iron present in the food.


Heme iron is found largely in meat, fish and poultry. These nutrients are easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron. Heme iron is also found in other animal products such as chicken and fish. Non-heme iron is found primarily in fruits, vegetables, dried beans, nuts and grain products. You can improve the absorption of non-heme iron by consuming it along with a heme-rich iron food. Avoid foods that interfere with the iron absorption by the body. A breakfast of cereals or whole meal breads with a glass of orange juice provides rich non-heme iron in the cereals that is aided by the Vitamin C in the juice for better absorption. A combination of red meat and vegetables for lunch or dinner is a good source of iron rich food. Lean red meat offers an excellent source of iron whereas vegetables offer non-heme iron. Tomatoes, capsicum, broccolli or lean beef can aid in better absorption of this iron.


Foods Rich in Iron and RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for Iron
The following table lists the foods that are rich in iron ore.
HEME FOOD SOURCES

Food SourceIron (mg)
Beef, liver7.5
Beef, corned2.5
Beef, lean ground; 10% fat3.9
Beef, round4.6
Beef, chuck3.2
Beef, flank4.3
Chicken, breast w/out bone0.9
Chicken, leg w/bone0.7
Chicken, liver7.3
Chicken, thigh w/ bone1.2
Cod, broiled0.8
Flounder, baked1.2
Pork, lean ham1.9
Pork, loin chop3.5
Salmon, pink canned0.7
Shrimp, 10 - 2 1/2 inch0.5
Tuna, canned in water1.0
Turkey, dark meat2.0
Turkey, white meat1.2
Source: MCkinley Health center, University of Illinois


NON-HEME FOOD SOURCES

Food SourceIron (mg)
Almonds, raw0.7
Apricots, dried, med.-size0.7
Bagel1.5
Baked beans, canned2.0
Bread, white1.4
Bread, whole wheat1.7
Broccoli, cooked0.6
Broccoli, raw1.1
Dates1.6
Kidney beans3.0
Lima beans1.8
Macaroni, enriched, cooked1.9
Molasses, blackstrap2.3
Peas, frozen and prepared1.3
Prune juice1.5
Raisins, not packed1.0
Rice, brown, cooked1.0
Rice, white enriched, cooked1.8
Spaghetti, enriched, cooked1.6
Spinach, cooked2.0
Source: MCkinley Health center, University of Illinois


The Recommended dietary allowance for iron is as follows. Recommended dietary allowance is the recommendations for daily intake of specific nutrients for groups of healthy individuals set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science


For Children

  • 0-6 months 6 mg/day
  • 6-12 months 10 mg/day
  • 1-10 years 10 mg/day
Men
  • 11-14 years 12 mg/day
  • 19 years and over 10 mg/day
Women
  • 11-50 years 15 mg/day
  • 50+ years 10 mg/day
  • Pregnant women 30 mg/day
  • Lactating women 15 mg/day

Facts about Iron
Vitamin C
increases and improves the absorption of iron. Be sure to include sources of vitamin C along with foods containing iron and iron supplements. A large amount of vitamin C is found in orange juice, grapefruit juice, green peppers, broccoli, melon, strawberries and cabbage. Avoid drinking tea and coffee while taking foods containing iron. Caffeine can diminish the absorption of dietary iron. Also avoid beverages, colas and medications that contain caffeine especially if you are under treatment for iron deficiency. While cooking some foods iron is lost, for instance raw spinach. Although it is a rich source of iron, when cooked the absorption of the iron is blocked by the production of oxalic acid.


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Iron Rich Food

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