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Are you getting enough iron?

spinach

There are so many vitamins and minerals that we need that it can be hard to keep track of them all. While each one deserves credible mention, iron is one of the hardest working minerals in your body and we constantly need to be replenishing our stores. In case your iron knowledge is a bit rusty, here’s a crash course on the major functions of iron.

“I’m strong to the finich, Cause I eats me Spinach”

Thanks to Popeye, we’re all aware of iron’s role in muscle building. Iron helps our muscles store and use oxygen, which is especially important when exercising. Iron also carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies to oxygenate our blood and is an essential component of protein and enzyme formation. Not only are we constantly using iron but we are also losing 1 mg of iron daily. For all of those reasons and more, it is important that we get our daily recommended amount of iron, which is, on average, 18 mg.

Not All Iron is Created Equal

Most people don’t realize that there are actually two forms of dietary iron – heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is what people are most familiar with and is found in all animal food sources. Non-heme iron is the iron present in vegetables and grains. Unfortunately, we cannot absorb non-heme iron without Vitamin C so be sure to add citrus fruits or balsamic to your vegetables to reap the benefits. Another commonly unknown fact is that calcium blocks iron absorption, which is important to note if you’re actively trying to increase your iron levels. Speaking of increasing your levels, there are so many great sources of iron that you can switch it up. While we all know spinach and red meat is filled with iron (3 oz of beef has about 2 mg of iron), here is a list of my favorite iron sources, some of which may be surprising.

Food Serving Size Milligrams of Iron
Mussels 3 oz 5.7 mg
Chia Seeds 3.5 oz 7.7 mg
Lentils ½ cup 7.5 mg
Kale 2 cups 3 mg
Total cereal 1 cup 18 mg

 

- Amy Yazdian

 

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