Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Try These Foods To Get More Iron In Your Meals

Anemia sounds like the kind of condition that rarely happens anymore, like scurvy or rickets. But actually, iron-deficiency is more common than you might think — especially among women. Being pregnant, breastfeeding, or just having a regular period (especially if it's heavy) all raise your risk for iron-deficiency. Luckily, if you plan it right, you can get all the iron you need straight from your meals.

Doing so is important to keep multiple systems in your body functioning properly. "Without iron, our cells wouldn't be able to carry oxygen to our muscles," says Kim Larson, RDN. "Even moderate anemia — not just extreme — can cause fatigue, decreased immunity, and even decreased cognitive functioning."

Everyone needs iron, but exactly how much you need depends on other aspects of your life. Vegetarians will be especially pleased to know that there are plenty of plant-based iron sources out there because they'll need about twice as much of the stuff as meat eaters, says Larson. Also, distance runners may need up to 30% more iron than the average person, she explains.

In some cases, taking the birth control pill may instead reduce your need for iron since it can make your periods lighter. (On the other hand, if you have a copper IUD, you might need more iron, as that BC method can make periods heavier in some women.)

Complicating things further is that our bodies absorb iron differently depending on the source. We more readily take up those meat-based, or "heme" sources of iron. However, some plant-based "non-heme" sources contain other compounds that might make it harder or easier for us to absorb that iron. For instance, the soy in tofu may actually enhance iron absorption.

To get the right amount, then, Larson suggests eating a meat and plant source of iron together — the heme source will make it easier for the body to soak up the iron from the non-heme. Or if you're sticking just with plant-based sources, adding a vitamin C-rich food will also help you absorb more of the iron.

 Dark Meat Turkey
Thanks to its hefty fat content, dark meat has a bit of a bad rap, says Larson. But the drumsticks and thighs also come with an extra bit of iron — nearly double the amount in white meat. Dark meat also contains more vitamin B and zinc. So, even if you're a dedicated fan of white meat, try giving in to the call of the drumsticks every once in awhile. Although it's particularly excellent in hearty post-Thanksgiving sandwiches and soups, this stuff is great year-round as an extra protein kick in salads, too.

Lentils
Lentils are the humble workhorse of the legume world. With their mild flavor and, yes, some serious hippie associations, lentils may not be something you turn to often (we forgive you). But there are some great reasons why you might want to add them to your list of go-to ingredients.

In addition to their 6 mg of iron per cup, lentils are also packed with fiber and potassium. And they've got a big helping of vegetarian protein that'll keep you full. Green and brown lentils can be used as a base for a protein bowl or in salads. And red lentils can be cooked into a thick stew that's perfect for winter. It's hard to argue with something so nutriti

Clams
Although these vitamin- and protein-packed nuggets are often at the top of the list for iron content, you should know their story is a bit more complicated. It's true that clams provide hearty doses of vitamins B-12 and C, on top of a big helping of iron. But the iron content depends on the clam, it turns out. For example, a study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found that iron content varied widely between types and sources of clams, with canned and minced clams having the lowest amount.

According to another study, fresh baby clams are probably your best bet (with some containing more than a whole day's recommended serving of iron) -- but some of these may also contain high levels of the environmental metal aluminum.

The bottom-line advice: Clams can be a good way to get an iron boost every once in a while, but they shouldn't be the only source. Instead, think of them as iron-rich treats to be enjoyed only every once in a while.

Tofu
An old standby, tofu is a go-to source of vegetarian "non-heme" iron and protein. Probably tofu's greatest asset is its versatility. It'll taste like whatever you happen to cook it in, so a good sauce will yield even better tofu. You can also bake or fry it to get those coveted crispy edges.

Beef 
Ah yes, it's hard to beat the iron content in beef. One serving can give you up to 3.5 mg of your recommended 17 mg per day. And though too much red meat has a reputation for being less than healthy, you can feel good about a lean cut now and again, as long as you keep it to 18 oz or less per week, per the American Institute for Cancer Research. So go ahead, cook up a cut of beef to get your iron. Just add some nutritious greens and you're good to go.

White Beans
These little nuggets are a less obvious source of iron, but don't underestimate 'em. One serving can give you up to 20% of your daily recommended amount of iron, along with a boost of fiber and protein. Mix up a classic white bean and tuna salad with a spritz of lemon juice for the ultimate iron-rich lunch.

Chicken Liver
Okay, sure, liver may not be the most appetizing food out there. And many people think organ meats hold on to potentially harmful substances. But livers don't actually store toxins, they simply process and help the body dispose of them.

If you're willing to try it, you'll get a big, nutritious reward for your efforts. Aside from the healthy dose of iron, you'll a ton of vitamin A and a sizable dose of vitamin C in every serving.

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