Iron is an essential nutrient for good general health. It is an important component of several enzymes and proteins, including those involved in the transport of oxygen to cells. When your levels are low, you may feel tired and weak and you can get sick more often. You can prevent the deficiency by consuming iron-rich foods along with other foods that help you absorb it more efficiently.
Types of dietary iron
Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body, as it is derived from foods that once contained hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells and transporting oxygen to cells. Non-heme iron, derived from plant foods without hemoglobin, is not absorbed as well and should be eaten with other foods that increase absorption.
Recommended daily iron intake
The recommended daily amount of iron varies by age and gender. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, adult women and men ages 19 to 50 should consume between 8 and 18 milligrams of iron per day, respectively. Pregnant and nursing women between the ages of 19 and 50 should consume between 9 and 27 milligrams, respectively. Both men and women over 50 should consume 8 milligrams. People who do not consume products of animal origin, athletes who exercise for long periods of time and women with heavy menstrual periods may require more iron than the recommended amounts.
Good sources of heme iron
Foods that once had hemoglobin are the only dietary sources of heme iron. The red meat, poultry and seafood are good sources. In fact, 3 ounces of cooked chicken liver contain more than 60 percent of the recommended daily amount. Other good sources include sirloin, ground beef, dark turkey meat, beef liver and oysters.
Good sources of non-heme iron