Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, the protein molecules that transport oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. Hemoglobin gives your blood its bright red color and also carries carbon dioxide from your organs and tissues back to your lungs. Additionally, iron is critical to the production of myoglobin, which is similar to hemoglobin but found in muscle tissue. A lack of iron can lead to anemia, which results in feeling tired or fatigued. Some may experience cold hands and feet or shortness of breath.
What's Your RDA?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults aged 19 to 50 is 8 mg. of iron daily for men and 18 mg. daily for women. Pregnant women need a whopping 27 mg. daily. The iron found in meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs is most easily absorbed by the body, but Vitamin C-rich foods—including citrus fruit, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and white potatoes—can help increase the absorption of iron found in vegetables and legumes.
- Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs
- Fortified or whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans
- Spinach, sweet potatoes, peas, broccoli, string beans, collard greens, kale
- Dried fruit like raisins or apricots
Ways to Incorporate Iron into Your Diet
- Have a snack of a hard-boiled egg, nuts, or seeds
- Try a whole grain cereal or bread
- Eat quinoa
- Make a spinach, bell pepper, and egg scramble for breakfast
- Have citrus fruit or strawberries with your egg in the morning
- Make a green salad with iron-rich veggies and those high in Vitamin C
- See your doctor if you think you have anemia. It can be a sign of more serious diseases or health problems.
- Be aware that alcoholism and certain medications can lead to anemia.
- Anemia can also occur if you don't have enough hormones to make red blood cells. These conditions include hypothyroidism, advanced kidney disease, and arthritis.