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Iron In Women’s Health

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 03:25  by Charity B.

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in women. About 20% of women and 50% of pregnant women do not have enough iron in their body (whereas only about 3% of men are deficient). When someone is iron-deficient, their body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that makes it possible for them to carry oxygen to the body’s tissue. Without sufficient oxygen circulating throughout the body, one may feel weak, tried, and irritable. The solution, in many cases, is to consume a plentiful amount of iron-rich foods.

Types and Food Sources of Iron

Animal Sources

There are two forms of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal sources such as meats, fish, and poultry. Since heme is derived from hemoglobin, which is already found in animal meat, it is more readily absorbed in the small intestine. Some of the best sources of heme iron include:

3.5 milligrams or more per 3 oz serving:

  • beef or chicken liver
  • clams, mollusks, or mussels
  • oysters

2.1 milligrams or more per 3 oz serving:

  • cooked beef
  • canned sardines, canned in oil
  • cooked turkey

0.7 milligrams or more per 3 oz serving:

  • chicken
  • halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, or tuna
  • ham
  • veal

Plant Sources

However, for health reasons one may choose not to eat meat or animal products. Plant sources of iron contain the non-heme form of iron, which is not absorbed as efficiently, so if you are a vegan or vegetarian you may need more than the RDA of 18mg/day. Some plant-based, non-heme sources of iron include:

3.5 milligrams or more per serving:

  • Breakfast cereals enriched with iron
  • 1 cup of cooked beans
  • 1/2 cup of tofu
  • 1 oz of pumpkin, sesame, or squash seeds

2.1 milligrams or more per serving:

  • 1/2 cup of canned lima beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, or split peas
  • 1 cup of dried apricots
  • 1 medium baked potato
  • 1 medium stalk of broccoli
  • 1/4 cup of wheat germ

0.7 milligrams or more:

  • 1 oz of peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, roasted almonds, roasted cashews, or sunflower seeds
  • 1/2cup of dried seedless raisins, peaches, or prunes
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 1 medium green pepper
  • 1 cup of pasta
  • 1 slice of bread, pumpernickel bagel, or bran muffin
  • 1 cup of rice

Better Iron Absorption

Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron; try eating strawberries, broccoli, or citrus fruit with non-heme sources of iron. Also, avoid drinking coffee or tea or consuming calcium-rich foods or drinks with meals containing iron-rich foods, as they hinder iron absorption.


Some people may be anemic and have trouble consuming or absorbing enough iron in their diet. In this case supplementation may be needed. Speak to your health care professional if you think this may be necessary.

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 03:37

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