Eating for Iron

Hey. I’m Rachel, a dietitian who has recently started working with Emily at The Resort. In the past few weeks, I’ve had some guests ask me questions about getting enough iron in their diets. Iron is one of those minerals that is crucial for good health. Among other things, it helps transport oxygen throughout the body, making it essential for maintaining good energy levels.

Getting enough iron in the diet can be a bit tricky, though, especially for women. In fact, iron requirements for pre-menopausal women are more than twice those for men. So, how do we get enough iron from our food?

When a lot of us think of iron-rich foods, we often think of red meat. Certainly, meats like beef and pork as well as chicken, turkey and fish are good sources of iron. Some of these choices, however, can be high in saturated fat and calories. We want to eat in moderation, especially when it comes to red meat. So how do we get enough iron while maintaining a well-balanced diet?

Iron is found in many different foods. We may be aware that foods like fortified breakfast cereals and fortified breads are good sources of iron. But a lot of us don’t realize that foods like beans and lentils, whole grains, oats, dark leafy green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, and dried fruits are wonderfully rich sources of iron. Did you know that 4 dried figs have as much iron as an average bowl of fortified breakfast cereal?

Here are a few other examples of foods that have good amounts of iron:

  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Whole eggs (the iron is in the yolk)
  • Nuts like almonds, peanuts, pine nuts and walnuts

And this list is by no means exhaustive. There are many other foods that contain iron. The message about getting enough iron is that by eating a variety of wholesome foods incorporated into a well-balanced diet, we can get the nutrients our body needs to maintain optimal health.

Here’s an important side note on increasing your absorption of iron. If you eat a source of vitamin C with the iron, this will help increase iron absorption. So eat an orange with your whole grain toast, put some sliced strawberries on top of your breakfast cereal, place some mandarin oranges on your spinach salad, or add some tomatoes to your black beans for a fresh and tasty salsa.

Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods is definitely the key to good health, especially when it comes to getting enough iron.

Rachel Cope MPH, RD, CD