Vitamin C And Iron Fruits

5

Iron Rich Foods

Food has two types of iron — heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in meat, fish and poultry. It is the form of iron that is most readily absorbed by your body. You absorb up to 30 percent of the heme iron that you consume. Eating meat generally boosts your iron levels far more than eating non-heme iron.

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Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. Foods with non-heme iron are still an important part of a nutritious, well-balanced diet, but the iron contained in these foods won’t be absorbed as completely. You absorb between two and 10 percent of the non-heme iron that you consume.

When you eat heme iron with foods higher in non-heme iron, the iron will be more completely absorbed by your body. Foods high in vitamin C – like tomatoes, citrus fruits and red, yellow and orange peppers – can also help with the absorption of non-heme iron.

The amount and type of iron in your diet is important.

Meat and other animal products are rich sources of iron, which sparks concerns about iron deficiency in people following vegetarian and vegan diets. However, there are several suitable sources of iron for these individuals.

Heme iron, which is more abundant in animal products, is easier for the body to absorb. However, people who follow plant-based diets are no more likely than others to experience iron deficiency, providing they eat a wide variety of foods. However, it is important to note that they may experience iron deficienciesTrusted Source if they are not careful in what they eat.

Keep reading to learn more about 10 vegetables that vegetarians and vegans can eat to meet their iron needs, as well as more information on why iron is important.

10 high iron vegetables for vegetarians
high iron vegetables getting cooked in a panShare on Pinterest
Enrique Díaz/7cero/Getty Images

A person’s daily iron needsTrusted Source vary with age, health, and whether they are pregnant or lactating. Adult males aged 19–50 years need 8 milligrams (mg) a day, while females need 18 mg. After the age of 50, most adults require 8 mg of the substance. During pregnancy, a person’s iron needs increase to 27 mg daily.

Some vegetables that are high in iron includeTrusted Source the below.

Chanterelle mushrooms

This fungal delicacy can be expensive as a main course but can serve as a garnish for salads, sandwiches, and other meals for a more affordable price. It offers 6.94 mgTrusted Source of iron per 200 gram (g) serving.

Black salsify

This thin, green root vegetable is one of the most suitable vegetarian sources of protein. Some people also call it the black oyster plant, serpent root, viper’s herb, or viper’s grass. Individuals can steam 250 g of black salsify to receive 5.5 mgTrusted Source of iron.

Spinach

Richer in vital nutrients than more water-dense lettuces, such as romaine, spinach is a suitable choice for salads. It offers 4 mgTrusted Source of iron per 150 g serving. Try mixing it with other leafy greens to boost the iron content of a salad even higher.

Swiss chard

This bright, rainbow-hued vegetable makes it suitable for salads. Try mixing it with spinach for a lunch rich in iron, or steam and season it on its own for a quick snack. Cooked Swiss chard offers 3.4 mgTrusted Source of iron per 150 g serving.

Cooked beet greens

A person can eat beet greens as a snack or use them to replace other lettuces in a salad. A 100 g serving offers 1.9 mgTrusted Source of iron.

Canned tomatoes

Add canned tomatoes to a salad for some acidic flavor and an iron boost, or try them on a sandwich. They contain 1.57 mgTrusted Source of iron per serving of half a cup.

Lamb’s lettuce

People can include this uniquely shaped lettuce in salads. Some also like to steam it and eat it on its own. It contains 2 mgTrusted Source of iron per 100 g serving.

Green cabbage

Most people serve green cabbage as a side dish. Try it in a casserole for some extra crunch and added iron — it contains 0.94 mgTrusted Source of iron per 200 g serving.

Brussels sprouts

Many people eat Brussels sprouts salted, while others enjoy them cooked with garlic in an air fryer or shredded and raw as part of a salad. After steaming, they offer 2.13 mgTrusted Source of iron per 150 g.

Boiled green peas

Boiled green peas contain 2.46 mgTrusted Source of iron per cup. They make a suitable snack and also pair well with other vegetables. Peas can also add extra texture to an iron-rich salad with Swiss chard and spinach.

Why is iron important?

Iron is vital for health because the body needs it to produce hemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells transport oxygen. Some of its roles includeTrusted Source:

  • supporting muscle metabolism
  • supporting the development of connective tissue such as blood and cartilage
  • supporting brain development
  • helping the body synthesize hormones
  • maintaining proper functioning of the body’s cells

A person not getting enough iron may lead to them experiencing iron deficiency. With this condition, an individual may not have any initial symptoms, but as it progresses, they may develop iron deficiency anemia, which can involve the followingTrusted Source symptomsTrusted Source:

  • low energy
  • feeling easily out of breath
  • chest pain
  • cold hands and feet
  • depression
  • irregular heart rate

In severe cases, iron deficiency can become life threatening. People deficient in iron typically have longer hospital stays, worse outcomes when they get sick, a higher risk of heart health issues, and a higher overall risk of dying.

Pregnant peopleTrusted Source with iron deficiency have a higher risk of negative outcomes such as preterm labor or having a baby with low birth weight. In children, iron deficiency can lead to neurological problems and developmental delaysTrusted Source.

While diet plays a role in iron deficiency, it is not the only factor. A person’s risk of the condition depends on their age, health, and other factors. Bleeding is also a major risk factor, such as gastrointestinal bleeding from an ulcer or another digestive issue. Menstruation in females of reproductive age can also contribute to iron deficiencyTrusted Source.

From Green Vegetables to Seafood, a Look at Iron-rich Foods to Help Fight Anemia

This is why it is crucial for doctors to assess potential causes of iron deficiency and not just treat the symptoms. Sometimes, iron deficiency is the first symptom of serious bleeding or ulcers. The condition can also appear in people with certain rare genetic disorders, end stage kidney failure, or congestive heart failure.

Individuals may also have a higher risk of iron deficiency after:

  • major surgery
  • serious injury
  • giving birth
  • a hemorrhage

Lead exposure in childrenTrusted Source can also lead to iron deficiency. Parents whose children are iron deficient should discuss lead exposure testing with a doctor.

Learn more about the health benefits and recommended daily intakes of iron here.

Summary

Spinach, Swiss chard, and lamb’s lettuce are some vegetables that contain high amounts of iron.

Iron deficiency is common across many people, with females of childbearing age having the highest prevalence rate, followed by 9% of young children aged 12–36 months.

People with the condition may need to take supplements to restore iron levels to optimal levels. In severe cases, they might need an infusion of iron or blood transfusion.

If a person does not get enough iron, believes they may be iron deficient, or has a history of iron deficiency, they should talk to a doctor about strategies for addressing the problem.

Everything you need to know about iron

Iron is a mineral vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood. Iron also has a role in a variety of other important processes in the body.

A shortage of iron in the blood can lead to a range of serious health problems, including iron deficiency anemia. Around 10 million people in the United States have low iron levels, and roughly 5 millionTrusted Source of these have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia.

This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular vitamins and minerals. It provides an in-depth look at recommended intake of iron, its possible health benefits, foods high in iron, and any potential health risks of consuming too much iron.

Fast facts on iron

  • The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) varies between ages, but women who are pregnant require the most.
  • Iron promotes healthy pregnancy, increased energy, and better athletic performance. Iron deficiency is most common in female athletes.
  • Canned clams, fortified cereals, and white beans are the best sources of dietary iron.
  • Too much iron can increase the risk of liver cancer and diabetes.
Recommended intake
a-senior-woman-in-a-supermarket-looking-for-products-high-in-iron
A person’s age and sex can affect the amount of iron they need in their diet.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)Trusted Source for elemental iron depends on a person’s age and sex. Vegetarians also have different iron requirements.

Infants:

  • 0 to 6 months: 0.27 milligrams (mg)
  • 7 to 12 months: 11 mg

Children:

  • 1 to 3 years: 7 mg
  • 4 to 8 years: 10 mg

Males:

  • 9 to 13 years: 8 mg
  • 14 to 18 years: 11 mg
  • 19 years and older: 8 mg

Females:

  • 9 to 13 years: 8 mg
  • 14 to 18 years: 15 mg
  • 19 to 50 years: 18 mg
  • 51 years and older: 8 mg
  • During pregnancy: 27 mg
  • When lactating between 14 and 18 years of age: 10 mg
  • When lactating at older than 19 years: 9 mg

Iron supplements can be helpful when people find it difficult to take in enough iron through only dietay measures, such as in a plant-based diet. It is better to try to consume enough in the diet alone by removing or reducing factors that may hinder iron absorption and consuming iron-rich foods.

This is because many iron-rich foods also contain a range of other beneficial nutrients that work together to support overall health.

Benefits

Iron helps to preserve many vital functions in the body, including general energy and focus, gastrointestinal processes, the immune system, and the regulation of body temperature.

The benefits of iron often go unnoticed until a person is not getting enough. Iron deficiency anemia can cause fatigue, heart palpitations, pale skin, and breathlessness.

Healthy pregnancy

pregnant-lady-hold-bellyShare on Pinterest
Iron is important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Blood volume and red blood cell production increase dramatically during pregnancy to supply the growing fetus with oxygen and nutrients. As a result, the demand for iron also increases. While the body typically maximizes iron absorption during pregnancy, insufficient iron intake or other factors affecting the way iron is absorbed can lead to iron deficiency.

Low iron intake during pregnancy increases the riskTrusted Source of premature birth and low birth weight, as well as low iron stores and impaired cognitive or behavioral development in infants. Pregnant women with low iron may be more prone to infection because iron also supports the immune system.

It is clear that iron supplements are needed for women who are both pregnant and iron-deficient. However, research is ongoing as to the possibility of recommending additional iron to all pregnant women, even those with normal iron levels. It is argued that all pregnant women should take 30 to 60 milligrams (mg) of iron supplements on every day of their pregnancy, regardless of their iron levels.

Energy

Insufficient iron in the diet can affect the efficiency with which the body uses energy. Iron carries oxygen to the muscles and brain and is crucial for both mental and physical performance. Low iron levels may result in a lack of focus, increased irritability, and reduced stamina.

Better athletic performance

Iron deficiency is more common among athletes, especially young female athletes, than in individuals who do not lead an active lifestyle.

This appears to be particularly true in female endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners. Some experts suggest that female endurance athletes should add an additional 10 mgTrusted Source of elemental iron per day to the current RDA for iron intake.

Iron deficiency in athletes decreases athletic performance and weakens immune system activity. A lack of hemoglobin can greatly reduce performance during physical exertion, as it decreases the body’s ability to transport oxygen to the muscles.

For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.

Foods

Iron has a low bioavailability, meaning that the small intestine does not readily absorb large amounts. This decreases its availability for use and increases the likelihood of deficiency.

The efficiency of absorption depends on a range of factors, including:

  • the source of iron
  • other components of the diet
  • gastrointestinal health
  • use of medications or supplements
  • a person’s overall iron status
  • presence of iron promotersTrusted Source, such as vitamin C

In many countries, wheat products and infant formulas are fortified with iron.

There are two types of dietary iron, known as heme and non-heme. Animal sources of food, including meat and seafood, contain heme iron. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body.

Non-heme iron, the type found in plants, requires that the body take multiple steps to absorb it. Plant-based sources of iron include beans, nuts, soy, vegetables, and fortified grains.

The bioavailability of heme iron from animal sources can be up to 40 percent. Non-heme iron from plant-based sources, however, has a bioavailability of between 2 and 20 percentTrusted Source. For this reason, the RDA for vegetarians is 1.8 times higherTrusted Source than for those who eat meat to make up for the lower absorption level from plant-based foods.

Consuming vitamin-C-rich foods alongside non-heme sources of iron can dramatically increase iron absorption.

When following a vegetarian diet, it is also important to consider components of food and medications that block or reduce iron absorption, such as:

  • proton pump inhibitors and omeprazole, used to reduce the acidity of stomach contents
  • polyphenols in cereals and legumes, as well as in spinach
  • tannins in coffee, tea, some wine, and certain berries
  • phosphates in carbonated beverages, such as soda
  • phytates in beans and grains

Some of the best sources of iron include:

clamsShare on Pinterest
Clams are an excellent source of iron.
  • Canned clams: 3 ounces (oz) provides 26 milligrams (mg) of iron.
  • Fortified, plain, dry cereal oats: 100 g provides 24.72 mg.
  • White beans: One cup provides 21.09.
  • Dark chocolate (45 to 69 percent cacao): One bar provides 12.99 mg.
  • Cooked Pacific oysters: 3 oz provides 7.82 mg.
  • Cooked spinach: One cup provides 6.43 mg.
  • Beef liver: 3 oz provides 4.17 mg.
  • Boiled and drained lentils: Half a cup provides 3.3 mg.
  • Firm tofu: Half a cup provides 2.03 mg.
  • Boiled and drained chickpeas: Half a cup provides 2.37 mg.
  • Canned, stewed tomatoes: Half a cup provides 1.7 mg.
  • Lean, ground beef: 3 oz provides 2.07 mg.
  • Medium baked potato: This provides 1.87 mg.
  • Roasted cashew nuts: 3 oz provides 2 mg.

Calcium can slow both heme and non-heme iron absorption. In most cases, a typical varied, Western-style diet is considered balanced in terms of enhancers and inhibitors of iron absorption.

Risks

In adults, doses for oral iron supplementation can be as high as 60 to 120 mg of elemental iron per day. These doses typically applyTrusted Source to women who are pregnant and severely iron-deficient. An upset stomach is a common side effect of iron supplementation, so dividing doses throughout the day may help.

Adults with a healthy digestive system have a very low risk of iron overload from dietary sources.

People with a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis are at a high risk of iron overload as they absorb far more iron from food when compared to people without the condition.

This can lead to a buildup of iron in the liver and other organs. It can also cause the creation of free radicals that damage cells and tissues, including the liver, heart, and pancreas, as well increasing the risk of certain cancers.

Frequently taking iron supplements that contain more than 20 mg of elemental iron at a time can cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain, especially if the supplement is not taken with food. In severe cases, iron overdoses can lead to organ failure, internal bleeding, coma, seizure, and even death.

It is important to keep iron supplements out of reach of children to reduce the risk of fatal overdose.

According to Poison Control, accidental ingestion of iron supplements was the most common cause of death from an overdose of medication in children less than 6 years old until the 1990s.

Changes in the manufacture and distribution of iron supplements have helped reduce accidental iron overdoses in children, such as replacing sugar coatings on iron tablets with film coatings, using child-proof bottle caps, and individually packaging high doses of iron. Only one death from an iron overdose was reported between 1998 and 2002.

Some studiesTrusted Source have suggested that excessive iron intake can increase the risk of liver cancer. Other researchTrusted Source shows that high iron levels may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

More recently, scientists have begun investigating the possible role of excess iron in the development and progression of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Iron may also have a direct damaging role in brain injury that results from bleeding within the brain. Research in mice has shown that high iron states increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

Iron supplements can decrease the availability of several medications, including levodopa, which is used to treat restless leg syndrome and Parkinson’s disease and levothyroxine, which is used to treat a low-functioning thyroid.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used to treat reflux disease can reduce the amount of iron that can be absorbed by the body from both food and supplements.

Discuss taking an iron supplement with a physician or healthcare practitioner, as some of the signs of iron overload can resemble those of iron deficiency. Excess iron can be dangerous, and iron supplements are not recommended except in cases of diagnosed deficiency, or where a person is at high risk of developing iron deficiency.

It is preferable to achieve optimal iron intake and status through the diet rather than supplements. This can help minimize the risk of iron overdose and ensure a good intake of the other nutrients found alongside iron in foods.

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