Get the Iron You Need with a Healthy Diet
TEXARKANA, Ark. –
Sometimes you may feel like you’ve just run out of gas and can’t do anymore. Could it be that you are overworked or not getting enough quality rest? Maybe quality sleep and relaxation will help you feel energetic again, or maybe your fatigue is a symptom of iron-deficiency anemia.
Actually, anemia isn’t a disease, but rather a symptom of other health problems. Often, there is a nutritional connection.
With anemia, there aren’t enough red blood cells, or enough hemoglobin in red blood cells, to transport oxygen to body cells. When too little oxygen gets to the brain and other parts of the body, you may feel tired or irritable and have difficulty concentrating.
Some symptoms include fatigue, pale skin, weakness, headache, lack of concentration, or irritability. To produce enough red blood cells, you need enough iron in your diet, as well as enough folic acid and vitamin B12. A simple blood test at your doctor’s office can diagnose anemia. Do not self-diagnose and add an iron supplement to your diet. Too much iron is unhealthy since our body does not excrete iron rapidly. The iron could build up over time and become toxic in some individuals.
Iron is a mineral found in every cell of the body. It is considered an essential mineral because it is needed to make hemoglobin, a part of blood cells. The human body needs iron to make the oxygen-carrying proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and myoglobin is found in muscles.
The best food sources of iron include dried beans, dried fruits, eggs (especially egg yolks), iron-fortified cereals, liver, lean red meat (especially beef), oysters, poultry, dark red meat, salmon, tuna, and whole grains. You will get reasonable amounts of iron in your diet from lamb, pork, and shellfish.
Iron from vegetables, fruits, grains, and supplements is harder for the body to absorb. These include dried fruits such as prunes, raisins, apricots; legumes such as lima beans, soybeans, dried beans and peas, kidney beans; seeds such as almonds, brazil nuts; vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, collards, asparagus, dandelion greens; and whole grain sources such as wheat, millet, oats and brown rice
If you mix some lean meat, fish, or poultry with beans or dark leafy greens at a meal, you can improve absorption of vegetable sources of iron up to three times. Foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus, strawberries, tomatoes, and potatoes, also increase iron absorption. Cooking foods in a cast-iron skillet can also help to increase the amount of iron provided.
It is recommended by the USDA that women 19 - 50 get 18 mg of iron a day, while women 51 and older and men 19 years and beyond need 8 mg a day. Moderate amounts of meat plus fruits and vegetables can provide that amount. A balanced diet with foods fortified with iron and other vitamins and minerals, like milk, flour, and breakfast cereals will help you reach your goal.
As with all things, there can be too much of a good thing with iron consumption. Talk with your doctor before you begin to take iron supplements or a multi-vitamin with iron.
For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.uada.edu/Miller.
This recipe for Spinach Pie comes from the University of Missouri Extension. It has 212 calories per one eighth slice, 13 total grams fat, 219 mg sodium, 8 grams protein and 8 percent iron.
1 frozen 9-inch pie shell, thawed
4 cups spinach
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup Swiss cheese, grated
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake empty pie shell for 10 minutes. Sauté spinach in olive oil and spread cooked spinach on bottom of baked pie shell. Sprinkle cheese over spinach. Combine eggs, milk and flour and pour over cheese. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into center comes out clean.
By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal
access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to
participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension
office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.