Pumping iron. Flat iron. Ironing a shirt. There are so many irons in our lives—and yet, do you know if you’re really getting enough of it in your body by eating iron-rich foods? Iron is a very important mineral that our bodies need. And while you may know that not getting enough iron could be detrimental and may be the reason you have dark circles under your eyes, do you know much more beyond that? If you’re a little hazy on the signs of iron deficiency or want to know how to slip more iron-rich foods in your life, the following tidbits are exactly what you need.
We’ll explain why your body needs iron, how to know the signs of an iron deficiency, and then round it out with the 10 best iron-rich foods.
What should you know about iron?
Your body needs iron to function.
”Iron is crucial because it is a key component of red blood cells, and you will have decreased oxygen-carrying capacity throughout the body if you’re low in iron,” says Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. “This can lead to lethargy, increased risk for infections, and problems with your cardiovascular system.” Not getting enough iron is especially risky during pregnancy, Hever notes.
Iron deficiency is particularly common in women.
Anemia is when your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells, and iron deficiency anemia is a common type. “It’s particularly common in women, especially during their child-bearing years. In fact, it’s the most common deficiency in the world, affecting about one billion people,” says Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, a Nashville-based nutritionist and author of Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week. “Women ages 19-50 need 18 mg of iron each day, but pregnant women need even more.”