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This is the complete guide on iron-rich foods for women.
Here I will provide you with a list of foods that are extremely rich in iron and can help many women to fulfill their daily iron needs.
According to WHO data, 29.9% of women of reproductive age are suffering from anemia which is caused due to iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency has become a major issue worldwide in women. Not only women but children are also lacking proper iron levels in their bodies.
The primary cause of this problem is improper dietary habits.
Iron deficiency is not actually a big health issue. It can be treated easily by focusing on a proper diet.
Here we will discuss which foods can provide iron and help you avoid and prevent iron deficiency.
But before that let me explain why women need more iron.
1. Why do women need more iron?
Actually iron is important for both men and women. But for women of reproductive age, iron becomes one of the most essential minerals.
Because of menstruation.
Menstruation is the first main reason for iron deficiency in women of age 15-49 years.
When women lose more blood during their periods, they can suffer from iron deficiency.
Why blood loss causes iron loss?
See, our blood contains one of the most essential components called hemoglobin. It is used to deliver oxygen to every cell present in the body.
The central mineral of this hemoglobin is iron. (our blood is iron-based)
If you are losing blood that means you are losing iron. That’s why women need more iron in their bodies.
The second most reason is pregnancy. It is because a woman’s body needs more iron to produce more blood to provide more oxygen to her baby.
Pregnant women need a very high amount of iron (27 mg a day) to avoid iron deficiency.
2. How much iron do women lose due to periods?
Well, it depends on the age of the woman. Younger women can lose more blood and hence more iron.
But some research reports show the iron loss can vary from 0.56 to 1.96 mg/day during the period.
According to academic.oup.com, 40 mg of blood loss can cause the loss of 1.46 grams of iron.
As iron loss can reduce the hemoglobin levels in the body, it can create lots of various problems.
So it becomes important to ensure optimal iron levels in the body, especially for women.
3. How much iron should a woman consume?
According to research, it is found that women of the age between 19-50 years should intake 14.5-15 mg of iron per day.
Pregnant women need 27 mg of iron a day.
For women above 50 years, 8-9 mg per day is good.
4. Symptoms of iron deficiency
- Redness of face turning white
- Lips lose color
Now we will discuss iron-rich foods for women. Let’s start.
5. Iron-Rich Foods for Women
There are generally two types of iron found in foods.
- Haem iron ( It is found in animal products)
- Non-Haem iron ( It is found in plant products)
Haem iron is considered the best due to its high absorbability in the body. It is absorbed almost ten times higher than the non-haem one.
Non-haem iron doesn’t get absorbed well in the body.
(In the last, I have also mentioned the way to increase the non-haem iron absorption in the body)
Here we will divide the food list into two categories. The first is food containing haem iron and the second is foods containing non-haem iron.
1. Foods rich in Haem iron
As mentioned above, haem iron is only present in animal-based foods. Here is your list.
1) Red meat
Red meat such as beef, pork, and lamb are the best sources of haem iron. 100 grams of red meat nearly contains 2.5-3.0 mg of iron.
As the iron found in red meat is haem type, it also gets absorbed easily.
Also, such foods are rich in protein, selenium, zinc, vitamin B12, etc.
But also remember red meat is high in fat and low in fiber which makes it one of the foods that can cause constipation.
2) Poultry meat
Poultry meat such as chicken and turkey is high in iron.
100 grams of chicken can provide you with 1.3 mg of iron. 100 grams of turkey can also provide you with 1.1 mg of iron.
Though such foods are low in dietary fiber, they are also low in fat. So they don’t tend to cause constipation and other digestion-related issues.
Such quality of this food makes it one of the best iron-rich foods for women.
Fishes such as salmon, sardines, and tuna are good sources of iron.
100 grams of fish contains nearly 0.3 mg of iron.
Fish is also a rich source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids so you can get both benefits at the same time.
Here is the summary.
2. Foods rich in non-haem iron
As mentioned above, non-haem iron is only found in plant-based foods. Here is your list.
Undoubtedly, beetroot is one of the excellent sources of iron. It is also rich in vitamin C.
It also helps in repairing and improving the health of the blood cells.
100 grams of beetroot can provide you with 0.8 mg of iron. Drinking a glass of beetroot juice with one tablespoon of lemon juice is the best practice to treat and avoid iron deficiency.
You can also include it in the salad. Don’t forget to squeeze a half of lemon into it.
It is also rich in antioxidants and lowers high blood pressure.
After knowing the benefits of beetroot, many people start eating it in high amounts. But you should not exceed its intake otherwise it can also harm you.
Also, avoid or reduce its intake in summer.
If someone comes to me and asks what foods he or she should eat to get rid of iron deficiency, I would recommend jaggery.
100 grams of jaggery contains 11 mg of iron.
It is often recommended for patients suffering from anemia. Just a piece of jaggery after lunch or dinner can make a huge difference in your daily iron intake.
You can also add jaggery powder to sweeten your tea or coffee.
Jaggery is highly recommended for women to ensure optimal levels of iron. It is one of the best iron-rich foods for women.
Disclaimer: People with diabetes should avoid or consult their doctor before starting eating jaggery.
3) Dried Figs
100 grams of dried figs contains 2 mg of iron.
You should soak 2-3 pieces of dried figs overnight and eat them early in the morning on empty stomach. Soaking enhances the iron absorption from the dried figs.
Though it is rich in iron, it is also high in calories. So avoid it if you are aiming at weight loss.
Prunes are the dried version of plum. They are also high in iron. 100 grams of prune contains 0.9 mg of iron in them.
It is also high in dietary fiber which makes it easy to digest.
100 grams of raw spinach contains 2.7 grams of iron.
Spinach is also a good source of potassium which can help you strengthen your bones.
You can consume its juice or soup.
Other than spinach almost all green leafy vegetables are rich sources of iron.
5) Green Peas
100 grams of green peas contains 1.5 mg of iron.
They are also a rich source of potassium. It is among the healthiest vegetables in the world. They are low in fat and high in protein.
So the women who are wanting to maintain their weight can easily try green peas to gain the optimal levels of iron.
Soybean comes from the legumes family. Legumes are very rich sources of iron.
100 grams of soybean contains over 4.42 mg of iron. It is also a rich source of protein. People are also now consuming soybeans instead of meat.
It is one of the testosterone-killing foods. So men are not recommended to consume soybeans in large amounts. Once a week is good enough.
100 grams of tofu contains 5.4 mg of iron.
Tofu is made from soya milk. It is also a good source of protein.
100 grams of mulberry contains 1.9 mg of iron. It is also useful to lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar levels.
9) Iron-fortified foods
Consuming iron-fortified foods is one of the best ways to boost the iron intake in your body.
Such foods can easily provide you with 18 mg of iron from the 100 grams of their amount.
Such as iron-fortified bread, iron-fortified breakfast, etc.
In the USA, the fortification of foods is very famous.
10) Foods prepared in iron vessels
If you have studied the Indian food culture & habits then you might know this. In India, there is a tradition to boil the milk in an iron vessel (also known as kadhai).
Some of them also prepare foods in the iron vessel.
This practice makes any food rich in iron. If you have the utensils then you must try this.
11) Other foods rich in iron
- Kidney beans
- Pumpkin seeds
Here is the summary.
6. How to increase iron absorption from plant-based foods?
The best way to improve iron absorption is to increase the consumption of vitamin C.
It has been proven in the study that vitamin C helps the body to extract more iron from food particularly from non-haem iron-rich foods.
So whenever you consume beetroot or carrot in the salad, just squeeze half of the lemon on it and enjoy your salad.
So if you are taking an iron-rich diet then also try to include some foods rich in vitamin C.
Some other tips:
- Unprocessed bran, tea, and coffee can block the absorption of non-haem iron. So avoid them if you are on an iron-rich food diet.
- Don’t exceed the iron intake because excessive iron accumulates in the body tissues and results in a condition called ”Haemochromatosis”
- Massage your body regularly with cold-pressed oils (sesame oil is best).
We don’t recommend any iron supplements. Your first choice should always be natural foods.
Before taking any steps, consult your doctor.
Iron deficiency has become a major issue in the world. Women highly tend to develop an iron deficiency in them.
We can prevent this by just changing our health habits and including an iron-rich diet.
Here we have discussed iron-rich foods for women.
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