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Iron is a mineral that has very beneficial properties for the development and growth of children, but it is also essential for adults. Iron is the substance that is used to produce hemoglobin. It is a pigment contained in the red blood cells, to which it gives its color, which performs an essential function: transporting oxygen from the lungs to other cells. As in the case of other essential nutrients, such as folic acid, it is vital to ensure adequate iron intake. Therefore, if the amount of iron in the blood decreases, so will the production of hemoglobin. The fact is, low iron levels will cause the blood cells to become paler and smaller, with the consequent reduced capacity to transport oxygen. Also, this deficiency increases the feeling of fatigue and the paleness of the face, that’s why we have to ingest iron from food, but what are the sources of iron?

The role of iron in pregnant women

The amount of blood in the body increases during pregnancy, and more iron is needed to make more hemoglobin for extra blood. Also, the developing baby will need it too. For this reason, if at any time you do not have enough iron to make hemoglobin, your chance of anemia increases. This is when the so-called “gestational anemia” occurs, which affects 40% of mothers.

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The six natural sources of iron

Iron is found in many different foods in our daily diet, although in different proportions. Therefore, to maintain a diet rich in this mineral, it is necessary to combine those whose amount is less with others of a more significant contribution. Besides, to facilitate the absorption of iron, it is advisable to eat it together with foods rich in vitamin C (orange juice, strawberries, peppers, etc.).

Seafood

Seafood stands out for its protein content of high biological value. It also provides the body with all essential amino acids but are low in fat and cholesterol. Regarding the presence of vitamins and minerals, shellfish have a high content of vitamins A and B complex, and zinc, phosphorus, iron, iodine, potassium, and calcium. Clams and oysters are the mollusks richest in iron and also provide a lot of calcium to the body.

oysters served with lemon wedges on a black plate sitting on grey background
beans, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans

Legumes

Legumes are an essential element in the diet thanks to their vitamins and high iron content. Lentils, beans, and chickpeas contain the most. In the case of lentils, 100 grams provide 85% of the iron we need daily. However, it must be taken into account that it is a different iron from that provided by meat and fish, which is easier to absorb. 

As for chickpeas, they contain fatty acids that help reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. They also provide magnesium, which protects the body against cardiovascular diseases. Being rich in soluble fiber, they are also very good at regulating intestinal transit. They also contain a substance that inhibits the digestion of hydrates, causing them to be absorbed slowly. Therefore, although they are caloric, they are ideal for a weight loss diet, due to the feeling of satiety they provide. As for the beans, they are very complete legumes, as they provide minerals such as potassium, iron, and magnesium.

Meat and fish

Even though red meat is the most recommended to consume in cases of anemia, other lean meats such as turkey also offer a high iron content. In the case of fish and shellfish, sardines and tuna are the most enriched in iron.

fresh raw tuna steak with rosemary on black slate background
oats, rolled oats and oat flakes in wooden bowl

Cereals

This food that should not be missing in any of our meals also helps in the daily intake of iron. Those that are more significant sources of iron are oats, rye, and spelling. Millet is a cereal with probiotic properties; that is, it helps us to maintain and regenerate the microbiota (the good bacteria in the intestine). It also provides slow absorption carbohydrates, so it does not cause glucose peaks, and, in addition to iron, it is also very rich in magnesium, zinc, and folic acid. This cereal does not contain gluten.

Oatmeal also regulates the level of sugar and cholesterol in the blood, making it ideal for preventing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It is also very rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, calcium, and omega 3. It also does not contain gluten. Rye is a cereal very rich in potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, in addition to iron and vitamins A, E, and B. It is ideal for people who practice sports. Spelled is wheat that has not suffered so many genetic alterations, so it provides more nutrients.

Nuts

Nuts, as well as being one of the richest sources of iron, have a high percentage of healthy natural fats, such as oleic acid, linoleic (omega 6), and linolenic (omega 3), which strengthens the cardiovascular system, memory, and brain. India nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, etc., stand out among the healthiest nuts. However, those with the highest amount of iron are pistachios, almonds, and walnuts.

As they are considered calorific, in many cases, their consumption is waived; however, there are many benefits to this type of food, and it is necessary to include them in the diet. They are a very important source of minerals, and in addition to iron, they contain magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and trace elements, such as zinc and selenium, which have antioxidant properties.

pistachios in a small bowl with scattered nuts on a wooden table
fresh spinach leaves in bowl on rustic wooden table

Green vegetables

On the other hand, the iron found in vegetables is hardly absorbable, so, to be assimilated, it must be ingested together with other substances such as vitamin C. This is found, for example, in red pepper. Likewise, cooking in plenty of water reduces the iron content present by 15%. With steam cooking, it decreases by approximately 10%. Leafy vegetables are great carriers of iron, especially spinach, chard, and parsley. In addition to iron, green vegetables provide many other minerals, vitamins, and fiber, which are very important for the body. Chlorophyll helps prevent cancer and contributes to the proper functioning of the heart and other body systems.