High Iron Foods – Organic, Natural and Plant Based | Iron Rich Vegetarian Super Food List | What is Iron and Hemoglobin? | What is Optimal Iron Intake? | Iron Deficiency (Anemia) Causes, Symptoms, Recovery Tips | Everyday Recipe Tips to Increase Iron Intake | Caution – Excessive Iron Supplement Side Effects
Iron and Hemoglobin Relation
Iron is a good blood builder. It is part of the myoglobin molecule, which is a protein that stores oxygen in the muscles until it’s needed. Without iron, myoglobin can’t hold enough oxygen, and muscle problems may develop. Iron is a metal mineral which is essential for human health, bone marrow, bone tissue, liver, and spleen. It is the key nutrient that influences the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. Iron is present in our bodies as hemoglobin, which is the red pigment of blood. It is useful for muscle protein and is store in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and muscles. It is also an important mineral which enters into the vital activity of the blood and glands. Iron exists chiefly as hemoglobin in the blood.
How Much Iron Is Required Everyday?
Iron produces hemoglobin that supply oxygen to cells, collagen synthesis, normal immune function. It distributes the oxygen inhaled into the lungs to all the cells. More hemoglobin provides better oxygen delivery throughout the body. Iron increases the production of red blood cells and helps to cure anemia. It is the master mineral which creates warms, vitality and stamina. Iron also strengthens muscle and nerve tissues and is rejuvenating. It is required for the healthy complexion, excellent hair growth and for building up resistance in the body. Generally, efficient absorption of iron is highest in childhood, and reduces as we age. The Indian Council of Medical Research has recommended an allowance of 20 to 30 mg. of iron in a balanced diet for an adult. The minimum iron intake level per day should be
- Men – 10 mg.
- Women with a normal cycle or no cycle – 10 mg.
- Women with a heavy cycle – 20 mg.
Iron Deficiency – Anemia – Low Red Blood Cell Count
- What is Anaemia?: Anemia is a lack of iron in the blood that can make you feel tired and drained of energy. The body needs iron to produce the necessary amount of hemoglobin, and the vast majority of anemia cases are causes because of the deficiency of this mineral. Anemia is linked to a problem with hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that is rich in iron. Hemoglobin helps to carry oxygen to different areas of the body. When you have a reduced number of red blood cells or these cells do not contain enough hemoglobin, less oxygen is in the blood that is distributed throughout your body. This causes the tiredness associated with anemia.
- Anemia Signs and Symptoms: Iron deficiency shows common symptoms such as fatigue, paleness, poor memory and concentration, developmental delays and behavioral disturbances, chronic colds, and weakened immunity, as well as a craving for indigestible materials (e.g., pencils, dirt, ice). Deficiency of dietary iron further may cause nutritional anemia, lowered resistance to disease, a general run down condition, pale complexion, shortness of breath on manual exertion and loss of interest in sex. A lack of iron, resulting in anemia, is a common cause of headache. The headache sometimes appears before the onset of anaemia, due to a chronic iron deficiency.
- Anemia Causes: Severe blood loss, malnutrition, infections and by excessive use of drugs and chemicals are few common causes of iron deficiency. There are several forms of anaemia, and iron deficiency anaemia is only one. Many women during their menstruating years may be iron deficient. Today, almost 30% of all women in the world suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Persistent heavy menstrual blood loss can lead to anemia. Iron deficiency may also result from a poor diet, especially one that’s high in junk food, or from long term or repeated dieting. Blood loss for any reason, including surgery, trauma, gum disease, hemorrhoids, polyps, cancer of the colon, and bleeding ulcers can produce an anemic state. Iron deficiency can also be due to an inability to absorb certain nutrients, as can happen with folic acid and vitamin B12. In rarer cases, deficiencies of vitamins A, B2, B6, and C, as well as of copper, may lead to anemia. The elderly often lose their ability to absorb these nutrients, as do people with certain digestive disorders like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Usually, iron deficiency is caused by a combination of these factors.
- Anemia Recovery: Iron is the classic remedy for anemia. If one is taking high iron diet due to insufficient intake of iron in the normal diet, one should also consider taking the food high in folic acid or folate every day and vitamin B12. Both these vitamins are essential in building healthy blood cells. Anaemia is much more easily prevented than corrected. A liberal intake of iron in the formative years can go a long way in preventing iron deficiency anaemia. Read More About Anaemia / Anemia – Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Home Remedies, Precaution and Healthy Prevention Tips.
Iron Rich Vegetarian Super Food List
You can increase the absorption of nonheme iron by also consuming vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. Generous intake of iron alone will not help in the regeneration of himoglobin. The supplies of protein, too, should be adequate. The diet should, therefore, be adequate in proteins of high biological value such as those found in milk and cheese. Copper is also essential for the utilization of iron in the building of hemoglobin. It is necessary to balance your intake of foods to get 100% benefits.
- Kakvi: It is nothing but liquid jaggery, also known as Raab or Molasses. It is more nutritious than honey and jaggery. It is a great substitute for harmful sugar products. It is easily available in India near sugarcane plants, but very few people knows it’s health benefits. As it is chemical free, the shelf life of product is less. Also kakvi is produce of sugarcane juice, so it’s sugar content is high. Which is why it’s not first choice as iron source for diabetic patient. Take a spoonful of unsulfured kakvi molasses every day. You can simply eat Kakvi – Roti roll or use kakvi as sugar substitute in dishes such as dessert, milkshake, tea etc.
- Beet: Along with iron beetroot is also a great source of potassium, phosphorous, calcium, Sulphur, iodine, copper, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, B1, B2, niacin B6, C and vitamin P. Beetroots are extremely important in curing anaemia. Drink beet and carrot juice to treat the condition. Beet juice is blood purifier, regenerates and reactivates the red blood cells, supplies the body with fresh oxygen and helps the normal function of vesicular breathing. Juice, Borscht, Soup, Tikki, Roasted Beet, Curry, Beet Barfi are some popular beetroot recipes. Read More Beetroot Health Benefits.
- Dill: Dill is a leafy vegetable popular as Soowa or Shepu. It is rich in Beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and Vitamin B complex. It is advisable to first wash all leafy vegetables under running water and then cut, to prevent loss of water soluble nutrients. Know More about Dill Health Benefits.
- Black Raisins: Raisins are dry grapes and are a good source of glucose, iron and phosphorous. Phosphorous is an important component of the nerve cells and plays a central role in energy metabolism. Raisins are an excellent natural laxative.
- Blackstrap Molasses: Blackstrap molasses, a by product of sugar refining process, is rich in iron and B vitamins. It guards against anaemia and is good for heart diseases. Blackstrap molasses is also rich in iron, so take a spoonful of it every day. Try using blackstrap molasses which do not contain Sulphur.
- Fig: Figs are richer in iron and copper than nearly all fruits and vegetables and most other dried fruits. One dry fig weighs about 20 gm and will give 60 Cal, 1 gm protein and 0 gm fat. Figs are rich source of thiamin, iron and calcium. Figs are popular for it’s laxative property and are often useful for constipation. It is one of the wholesome natural foods that can be enjoy by all. Know More about Figs Health Benefits.
- Spinach: Along with iron spinach is also source of oxalic acid. As oxalic acid can increase the risk of kidney stones, sensitive people should avoid taking spinach. In a vegetarian diet leafy vegetables form an important source of iron. Inclusion of about 50 grams of green leafy vegetables in our daily diets, can meet a fair proportion of iron needs besides providing calcium, Beta-carotene and Vitamin C. Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Orange Vinaigrette, Soup, Paratha, Spinach Rice, Palak Paneer, Palak Puri, Lasooni Palak, Dal Palak, Aloo Palak are some popular recipes to try. Know More about Spinach Leaves Health Benefits.
- Kharik: These dried dates. Also try to use black variety of dates as it is more nutritious than golden. Gond ke laddu made with kharik, khobara, edible gum, almonds, khus khus are one of the best healthy wholesome and nutritious dish. You can just munch on few pieces of dry dates during evening time for best results. Kharik powder barfi, kharik powder kheer, chuwara halwa are few popular dry dates recipes.
- Jaggery: Whether it’s palm jaggery or sugarcane jaggery, both of them contains high iron. As the name suggest palm-jaggery is made from coconut palm where as sugar cane jaggery is an unrefined sugar made from the juice of crushed sugarcane stalks, which is a dry, lump variety of molasses. Palm jaggery is more popular due to it’s less sugar content. Both the jaggery are great substitute for sugar. Jaggery peanut and sesame seed ladoo, jaggery roti, gud payasam, yereappa, gudh daliya, chikki, sweet poha are few popular healthy recipes. Jaggery Other Health Benefits.
- Halim Seeds: These seeds are popular with different names such as – Lepidium sativum (botanical name), Chandrashuura, Chandrikaa, Vaas-pushpaa, Pashumehankaarikaa, Nandini, Suvaasaraa, Aashaalim, Chandrashura (Ayurvedic name), Alivirai (Tamil), Halim / Aliv / Haalim / Haleem / Habb-ul-rashaad / Tukh-eTaratezak / Sipandaan (Hindi), Garden Cress Seeds / Dittander / Poor man’s Pepper (Common English). Halim are useful as dry seeds or in powder form. They are also useful for rapid healing of bone or muscles. Due to this property of halim, it used in the recipes prepared for patient after surgery. Ahaliv kheer is very popular in India and usually served as post delivery food. Seeds are also useful in gond ke laddu. Haleem seeds are part of a famous formula – chaturbeeja, which contains – fenugreek, chandrashura, krishna jiraka and yavani.
- Mint Leaves: Mint is a good source of Betocarotene, iron, calcium, Beta- complex and Vitamin C. Usually mint is eaten uncooked in the form, of dressing or chutney. There is a good amount of Vitamin C and B complex in green leafy vegetables, but they are destroyed on cooking. Try eating to eat mint, green coriander and others in the uncooked form. Mint is also known to aid digestion. Know More about Mint Leaves Health Benefits.
- Honey: Honey, considered a holy food, contains iron, phosphorous, calcium, sodium, potassium, Sulphur and manganese. It is used as a base for many Ayurvedic medicines. It is known to benefit patients with constipation, cold and cough. Know More about Honey Health Benefits.
- Nettle: Nettle is considered as herbal iron tonic. Young nettle tops can be used in various ways, such as a nourishing soup. Pick 2 cups (500ml.) of the tops of young nettles, avoiding too much stem. Chop two medium potatoes, a carrot, and a small onion. Add the ingredients to twice as much water and boil until the potatoes are soft. Blend in a food processor. Serve seasoned to taste.
- Brewer’s Yeast: Brewer’s yeast is an excellent source of iron and anemia can easily be prevented by taking a teaspoon daily. Brewer’s yeast is a good source of iron, folic acid, and B12, so add 1 tablespoon to cereals, salads, or juices daily.
High Iron Foods – Organic, Natural and Plant Based
While many people first think of meat and meat products as a source of iron, there are many non-meat options available. The body absorbs iron from animal sources and from plant sources differently. Heme iron comes from animal sources such as meat, poultry, calf’s liver, egg yolk, offal and shellfish. Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body. Nonheme iron comes from plant based sources and needs assistance from other nutrients for absorption. The common plant based blood builder foods rich in natural organic iron are
- Dry Fruits: Prunes, Raisins, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Black Dates, Currants, Pumpkin Seeds, Cashews.
- Whole Grains: Wheat, Millet, Oats, Brown Rice, Cereals, Dried Beans, Amaranth, Old Rice, Barley, Ragi.
- Chlorophyll Rich Leafy Greens: Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, Celery, Swiss Chard, Parsley, Agase, Amaranthus, Coriander, Curry Leaves, Romaine Lettuce, Leeks.
- Dark Colored Fruits: Grapes, Pomegranate, Cranberry, Apples, Black Berries, Cherries, Figs, Peaches, Apricots, Papaya, Sweet Lemon, Oranges, Lemon, Mango, Amla (Indian Gooseberry), Banana, Raspberries.
- Vegetables: Beets, Carrots, Cabbage, Tomatoes, Ash Gourd, Snake Gourd, Bitter Gourd, Drumstick, Parsnip, Eggplant / Brinjal.
- Other Natural Iron Sources: Blackstrap Molasses, Wine, Date Sugar, Bee Pollen, Seaweeds, Mugwort-mochi, Burdock Root, Cocoa Powder, Khadira (Acacia catechu) water, Kelp.
Everyday Recipe Tips to Increase Iron Intake
Everyday recipe tips to plan your meals so that you get plenty of iron.
- Cast Iron Pots and Pans: For extra iron, cook your food in cast-iron pots and pans. The food will absorb some of the mineral from the cookware. This strategy is especially helpful for vegetarians, who have difficulty meeting iron requirements. Acidic foods (such as tomato sauce) cooked in iron pan can leech iron into the food and thus also be a source of dietary iron. However, excess iron in the system is harmful, so be careful about using it.
- Herbal Tea: Many herbal teas are rich in iron and can help build the blood. These include teas made from alfalfa leaves, burdock root, dandelion leaves / root, nettles, red raspberry leaf, yellow dock and watercress. Raspberry leaf is rich in calcium, magnesium, and iron and aids in regulating menses and reducing hot flashes. Yellow dock helps improve iron assimilation and has been found to free up iron stores in the liver. Leaf of the wild or domestic strawberry plant is high in iron and vitamin C. Drink any of these herbs individually or in a combination up to three times daily.
- Vitamin C: It helps your body absorb and retain iron. When you’re eating plant based foods that are high in iron, have some citrus fruits alongside them. Your body needs vitamin C to absorb iron; eat citrus fruit after an iron rich meal. A green salad topped with strawberries, beans with a tomato sauce, or oatmeal with a glass of orange or grapefruit juice, is also great combination. Drinking grapefruit juice with foods rich in iron increases the absorption of iron in the body.
- Ascorbic Acid: Like vitamin C, ascorbic acid is necessary to facilitate absorption of iron. Include citrus fruits and other ascorbic acid rich foods in diet. Strawberry is high in ascorbic acid.
- Spices: Cardamom, mustard, sesame seeds, jeera and ajwain are excellent source of iron. Use plenty of them in everyday cooking.
- Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine inhibits iron absorption. Coffee, black tea, carbonated sodas, dairy products, and excess bran can inhibit iron absorption due to their diuretic and laxative effects. Avoid drinking tea at mealtimes as this makes iron absorption less efficient.
- Try cooked apple in different recipes. It has ample concentration of iron and phosphorous which is also aid to heal ulcerative condition.
- Salad Toppings: Minerals like calcium, iron and potassium are also present in good amounts especially in greens like lettuce, celery and broccoli. When eaten raw or just tossed in some seasoning they provide a lot of roughage or fiber and therefore play an important role in preventing constipation, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride, decreasing absorption of sugar and even in protecting from certain cancers. Beans and sprouts are high in proteins, riboflavin and vitamin C. Use them as salad toppings.
- Fruit and Vegetable Juice: If your skin looks pale, it may be a sign of anemia. Drink some carrot juice, and eat cooked beets. This will give you natural iron and should improve skin color. This is also helpful if you have a digestive disorder that prevents you from absorbing food properly. Juice the vegetables and drink several glasses daily. Juices don’t require much digestive work from the stomach and the intestines, and their nutrients are easily passed into the bloodstream.
- Utilize Iron Effectively: Molybdenum is an essential trace element, and a vital part of the enzyme which is responsible for the utilization of iron in our bodies. Best Sources of Molybdenum are wheat, canned beans, wheat germ, legumes, and whole grains. Use them in diet creatively. Combine different types of foods you eat and you can enhance iron absorption.
Caution – Excessive Iron Supplement Side Effects
Do not take iron pills with meals that are high in fiber. The fiber will sweep the iron out of your system before you’ve had a chance to digest it. Excess iron can cause constipation, diarrhea, and, rarely, in high doses, death. Be very cautious when giving children iron supplements – even doses as little as 3g. can cause death.