You most likely recognize that we need iron in our bodies to help make our blood healthy. And, if you’re like most people, you know that we get this important mineral from red meat. But there are lots of other places where we can get iron into our diets, and there are also ways we can help our bodies absorb this essential nutrient.
Did you know that our bodies can’t make iron? We have to eat things with iron in them in order to get this mineral into us. If we don’t get enough iron, we can become anemic (more on that in a minute). It’s especially important for us girls to get our iron because our reserves are depleted once each month until we reach a certain age!
So what does iron do for us?
Most of the iron in your body (roughly 70%) is found in your muscles and in your blood. Iron carries oxygen to our cells. It also aids the digestion process by working with enzymes in our bodies to help us process the food we eat properly.
What is Iron deficiency?
If you aren’t getting enough iron, you may become anemic. Anemia is the single most common mineral deficiency among Americans. If you’re unusually weak and fatigued, that’s a sign of anemia. Other symptoms include frequent illness, an enlarged spleen, and cracked brittle fingernails. These things happen as a result of our cells not getting enough oxygen. Pregnant women are at greater risk of becoming iron deficient because their babies are like little iron leeches.
Us ladies need between 15 and 18 mg of iron daily (if you’re pregnant, make that 27 mg) and adult men can get by with 8 mg or so. Children need up to 10 mg in order to be healthy.
How can I get more iron into my diet?
Here’s a list of iron-rich foods:
• Clams (a 3 oz serving contains 23 mg of iron!)
• Spinach (to compare, a half-cup serving of spinach contains 3 mg. Eat your clams!)
To help enhance iron absorption, you can prepare foods in a cast iron pan. A scant amount of the iron in the pan may be absorbed by your body.
Never eat dairy with your iron-rich foods because calcium blocks its absorption. If you take an iron supplement, make sure to take it a couple of hours before or after you eat or drink calcium-rich foods. On the flip side, Vitamin C is known to help your body absorb iron. So, wash down that supplement with a glass of OJ, or enjoy an orange for dessert after a nice clam or steak dinner!
So, who’s up for clams? Tell us here!
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