Iron-Rich Foods: Heme and Non-Heme Sources and How to Incorporate Them into Your Diet

One of the many important minerals the body needs to function correctly is iron. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and many more minerals are needed as well. Each mineral has a special function in the body, and imbalances or deficiencies in these minerals can cause a range of medical issues. In instance, iron is a necessary mineral that is critical to the body's ability to produce red blood cells. It participates in energy metabolism, immune system function, and brain development in addition to aiding in the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. The body may become anaemic without enough iron, which can cause weakness, exhaustion, and other health issues.

There are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron, which are present in various types of foods. Heme iron is found in animal-based foods, while non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods.

Heme iron is the most easily absorbed form of iron, and it is found in foods such as:

. Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.)

. Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.)

. Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, oysters, clams, etc.)

. Organ meats (liver, kidney, etc.)

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Non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed by the body as heme iron, and it is found in foods such as:

  • Beans and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
  • Whole grains (oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, etc.)
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, etc.)
  • Fortified foods (breakfast cereals, breads, etc.)
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While heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron, it is important to note that consuming too much red and processed meats has been associated with increased risk of certain health conditions, such as heart disease and certain cancers. Therefore, it is recommended to consume a variety of iron-rich foods, both heme and non-heme sources, as part of a balanced diet.

It is advised to combine plant-based sources of iron with foods high in vitamin C to improve absorption. Adding sliced tomatoes to a lentil soup, adding lemon juice to a spinach salad, or consuming orange juice with iron-fortified cereal are a few examples.

Because too much iron can be dangerous, it's ideal to acquire your recommended daily intake through a healthy diet rather than iron pills. Adult men and postmenopausal women should consume 8 mg of iron per day, but premenopausal women require 18 mg due to menstrual losses. Pregnancy increases the need for iron since a developing foetus needs it for growth and development.

Including foods high in iron in your diet can help you make sure you're getting enough of this vital nutrient. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you might be iron deficient and make sure to take them with vitamin C to improve absorption.