You’ve probably heard that iron is essential for good health. This is true! In fact, low iron levels have been associated with a number of unpleasant health effects. However, iron is also one of those “too much of a good thing” things! Too-high iron levels can also negatively affect your health. So what’s the right balance? Keep reading to learn about the benefits of iron, and how eating an iron-rich diet can help you get enough of this important nutrient.
WHAT IS IRON?
Iron is an essential mineral that is found in red blood cells. Red blood cells transport oxygen to our muscles. Iron is also essential for respiration and energy metabolism.
Our bodies store about 15% of the iron we eat for times when iron intake is inadequate. This keeps our muscles firing on all cylinders, even when our diet isn’t great! Still, adult men ages 19-50 should aim to get 8 mg of iron per day from the foods they eat. And for women ages 19-50, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 18 mg of iron a day.1
6 IRON-RICH FOODS FOR HEALTHY IRON LEVELS
Most people get enough of this important mineral by eating an iron-rich diet that includes these foods:
1. Fortified Cereal Oats
Good old-fashioned oatmeal contains 25 mg of iron per serving.2 We love oatmeal because there’s an endless number of ways to make it. Experiment by adding different ingredients like brown sugar, peanut butter, apples, cinnamon, pumpkin or blueberries.
2. White Beans
Just one cup of white beans contains 21 mg of iron.2 And they make a great, protein-packed addition to soups and stews.
3. Dark Chocolate
Great news! One ounce of dark chocolate contains 3.3 mg of iron.2 If you wanted an excuse to indulge in some chocolate, now you have one! Just be sure to select dark chocolate, since milk chocolate doesn’t have the same health benefits.
Why did Popeye eat spinach? To make his muscles stronger of course! One cup of cooked spinach contains 6.4 mg of iron.2 While the effects of spinach might not be so dramatic in real life, its iron does help your body deliver oxygen to your muscles.
5. Lean Ground Beef
Classic dinner staples like burgers and meatloaf can also help your family get their daily dose of iron. Lean ground beef provides 2 mg of iron per serving.2
6. Canned Clams (Yes, Really!)
They might sound kind of gross, but just 3 oz of canned clams packs 26 mg of iron.2 Talk about an iron-rich food! Try making linguine with clams or add canned clams as a topping on homemade pizza. We swear it’s delicious!
SHOULD I TAKE AN IRON SUPPLEMENT?
Some people have trouble absorbing iron from the foods they eat, which can lead to an iron deficiency. In that case, talk to your doctor, they may prescribe an iron supplement. But you should ask your doctor before starting an iron supplement. Too much iron can be harmful if you don’t need it.
THE (SURPRISING!) LINK BETWEEN VITAMIN C & IRON
Did you know that vitamin C actually plays an important role in helping your body absorb iron? It’s true! If you consume vitamin C at the same time as iron, it can help your body absorb it. So eat more vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, strawberries and broccoli along with those iron-rich foods. Or, if you want to get more vitamin C into your diet, you might add a vitamin C supplement like vitafusion Power C gummies to your daily routine.
IRON ISN’T FOR EVERYONE
We know that gummy vitamins are extra-appealing to kids. They’re so colorful and they taste like candy! But too much iron can be harmful for kids and adults. That’s why we formulated vitafusion gummies without iron. After all, who can resist those sweet, colorful gummies?!
For expecting moms, the last thing they need is something that makes them feel queasier! Because vitafusion PreNatal and Simply Good Prenatal don’t contain iron, they’re gentle on the stomach. A must during pregnancy. Ask your doctor how much iron you need during pregnancy.
Sure, good iron levels are essential for good health. You can get the iron you need from your diet, especially if you eat your spinach (and canned clams?!). Or ask your doctor if you should take an iron supplement. But don’t overdo it with the iron — too much can be harmful. Always consult your doc!
We love sharing our insights about vitamins and health. But that doesn’t mean it should be a substitute for professional medical advice. For that, you should talk to your doctor!
1 Iron, Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health (NIH).
2 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, USDA Food Composition Databases.