Iron is a mineral that plays an important role in the creation of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells are necessary for transporting oxygen throughout your body. There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Animal sources contain both heme and non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is also found in some plant foods and enriched grains, such as rice.
When your iron levels are low, there aren't enough healthy red blood cells available to carry oxygen throughout the body. This can lead to a common condition called Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA). The handout below shares the signs of iron deficiency and the best food sources for increasing your iron intake. In some cases, your doctor may recommend taking an over-the-counter iron supplement. Be sure to follow your doctor's recommendation exactly to avoid the unpleasant symptoms from excessive iron intake, including constipation, nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach.
Track your food for one week to determine your current iron intake! Then, using the list below, aim for the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) the next week.
Milligrams of iron per 1-ounce serving:
- Red meat = 0.8 mg
- Poultry = 0.3 mg
- Clams = 0.8 mg
- Fish = 0.3 mg
- Tofu = 0.6 mg
- Legumes = 0.3 mg
- Spinach = 0.8 mg
- Dried fruit = 0.5 mg
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