This mineral keeps your body and mind performing at their peak, but many people just don’t get enough.
How to be an Iron Man/Woman
Extreme fatigue, a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and difficulty focusing sound like symptoms that would send most people running to their doctor’s office. But they can also be signs of a very common mineral deficiency—the most common nutritional disorder in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
“Iron carries oxygen through our blood to our muscles and brain, making it crucial for both mental and physical health and performance,” says dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, owner of BZ Nutrition. The mineral is also essential for helping maintain a healthy immune system, regulating body temperature, and digestion and absorption of other nutrients—which explains why a lack of it, known as iron-deficiency anemia, can lead to the symptoms described above.
Pumping up your iron
We have to get iron from outside sources like foods and/or supplements, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com. And that might sound easy until you consider that a cup of raw spinach—despite what Popeye cartoons might lead you to believe—has less than 1 milligram per cup. Government nutrition experts recommend that adult men get a minimum of eight mg daily, and adult pre-menopausal women, thanks to menstrual cycles, need 18 mg a day; pregnant women need 27 mg.
Some of the top dietary sources of iron come from animals—red meat, liver, shellfish—so the growing popularity of plant-based diets have left us more iron-starved than ever. If you need help developing a well-rounded nutritional meal plan as a vegan, check out these meals. Read on for your ultimate iron-pumping grocery list, and other tips for keeping your levels of this vital mineral at healthy levels.
Most people think of red meat when they think of iron, and with good reason. A four-oz beef patty has nearly three mg of iron, as well as vitamin B-12, zinc, and selenium, says Taub-Dix. And though red meat gets a bad rap when it comes to fat, many cuts are fairly lean, including sirloin and top and bottom roast. Find out how to choose the best cut.