Iron is essential to all body cells. Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the body, both as a part of hemoglobin in the blood and of myoglobin in the muscles. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when there is not enough iron in the red blood cells. This is a common problem often caused by pregnancy, blood loss, and a diet low in iron or poor absorption of iron by the body.
There are a variety of possible symptoms of iron deficiency including:
Because the typical symptoms of iron deficiency have many causes, diagnosis by a blood test is needed to confirm the presence of iron deficiency anemia.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron for non-vegetarian pre-menopausal women is 18 mg/day. The RDA for non-vegetarian men and post-menopausal women is 8 mg/day. Because of iron absorption issues in a healthful, high-fiber vegetarian diet, the RDAs for vegetarians are higher – 14 mg/day for vegetarian men and 33 mg/day for vegetarian women. Iron absorption should be twice for vegans who exclude all animal products. The upper level of intake should not exceed 45mg/day.
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following:
Infants and children
Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk may need different amounts of iron. Ask your health care provider what is appropriate for you.
What can I do to prevent iron deficiency?
In general, you can eat a healthful diet that includes good sources of iron. A healthful diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat free or nonfat milk and milk products, lean meats, fish, dry beans, eggs, nuts, and is low in saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.
In addition to a healthful diet that includes good sources of iron, you can also eat foods that help your body absorb iron better. For example, you can eat a fruit or vegetable that is a good source of vitamin C (see table on Dietary Sources of vitamin C) with a food or meal that contains non-heme iron (see table below for Dietary Sources of Iron). Vitamin C helps your body absorb the non-heme iron foods you eat, especially when the food containing non-heme iron and the vitamin-C rich food are eaten at the same meal.
The following recommendations are for specific groups who are at greater risk for iron deficiency.
Young children (aged 1–5 years)
Adolescent girls and women of childbearing age
|*Beef, chuck, lean||3.0||3.2|
|Beef, eye of round, roasted||3.0||2.2|
|Beef, lean ground; 10% fat||3.0||3.9|
|Beef, tenderloin, roasted||3.0||3.0|
|Chicken, breast, roasted,||3.0||1.1|
|Chicken, leg, meat only, roasted||3.5||1.3|
|Chicken, thigh w/ bone||2.3||1.2|
|Clams, breaded, fried,||¾ cup||3.0|
|Oysters, breaded and fried||6 pieces||4.5|
|*Pork, lean ham||3.5||1.5|
|*Pork, loin chop||3.0||1.2|
|Salmon, pink canned||3.0||0.7|
|Shrimp, mixed species, cooked||4 large||0.7|
|Tuna, canned in water||3.0||0.8|
|Turkey, dark meat||3.5||2.3|
|Turkey, white meat||3.5||1.6|
|*Lean, trimmed of separable fat|
|Almonds, raw, whole||10-12||0.7|
|Apricots, dried, med.-size||10||1.7|
|Baked beans, canned||½ cup||2.0|
|Black beans, boiled||1 cup||3.6|
|Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled||1 cup||1.8|
|Bread, white, enriched||2 slices||1.8|
|Bread, whole wheat||2 slices||1.8|
|Broccoli, cooked||½ cup||0.6|
|Broccoli, raw||1 stalk||1.1|
|Grits, quick enriched white, cooked||1 cup||1.5|
|Kidney beans, boiled||1 cup||5.2|
|Lentils, boiled||1 cup||6.6|
|Lima beans, boiled||1 cup||4.5|
|Macaroni, enriched, cooked||1 cup||1.9|
|Molasses, blackstrap||1 tbsp.||3.5|
|Navy beans, boiled||1 cup||4.5|
|Oatmeal, fortified instant, prepared||1 cup||10.0|
|Peas, frozen and prepared||½ cup||1.3|
|Pinto beans, boiled||1 cup||3.6|
|Prune juice||½ cup||1.5|
|Raisins, seedless packed||½ cup||1.5|
|Rice, brown, cooked||1 cup||1.0|
|Rice, white enriched, cooked||1 cup||1.8|
|Soybeans, boiled||1 cup||8.8|
|Spaghetti, enriched, cooked||1 cup||1.6|
|Spinach, cooked (boiled, drained)||½ cup||3.2|
|Spinach, canned, drained||½ cup||2.5|
|Spinach, frozen, boiled, drained||½ cup||1.9|
|Tofu, raw, firm||½ cup||3.4|
In addition, many breakfast cereals are iron-fortified. Check nutrition information on package label for specific iron content.
Enjoy your best health with iron-rich diet :-)