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Photo: Webmd.com

Iron is a mineral that serves several important functions, its main one being to carry oxygen throughout your body as a part of red blood cells. It’s an essential nutrient, meaning you must get it from food.

Interestingly, the amount of iron your body absorbs is partly based on how much you have stored. A deficiency can occur if your intake is too low to replace the amount you lose every day. Luckily, there are plenty of good food choices to help you meet your daily iron needs. Here are 7 healthy foods that are high in iron.

The benefits of Iron

Iron is a mineral vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood. Iron also has a role in a variety of other important processes in the body.

A shortage of iron in the blood can lead to a range of serious health problems, including iron deficiency anemia. Around 10 million people in the United States have low iron levels, and roughly 5 millions of these have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, according to Medicalnewstoday.

What foods are good sources for Iron?

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be a pretty surprising source of iron; a mere half-cup of stewed tomatoes packs as much iron as three ounces of beef! Tomatoes are also a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which is responsible for giving them their vibrant color. Lycopene is thought to be a powerful cancer-fighting nutrient.

IRON and 9 best food sources of Iron
Photo: BBC.com

2. Spinach

Spinach provides many health benefits but very few calories. About 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw spinach contain 2.7 mg of iron, or 15% of the DV.

Although this is non-heme iron, which isn’t absorbed very well, spinach is also rich in vitamin C. This is important since vitamin C significantly boosts iron absorpion.

Spinach is also rich in antioxidants called carotenoids, which may reduce your risk of cancer, decrease inflammation, and protect your eyes from disease, Healthline expressed.

3. Liver and other organ meats

Organ meats are extremely nutritious. Popular types include liver, kidneys, brain, and heart — all of which are high in iron. For example, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef liver contains 6.5 mg of iron, or 36% of the DV.

Organ meats are also high in protein and rich in B vitamins, copper, and selenium. Liver is especially high in vitamin A, providing an impressive 1,049% of the DV per 3.5-ounce serving.

4. Oysters

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Photo: Foodandwine.com

Oysters are a nutritional powerhouse, fueling us with omega-3 fats, zinc, protein and of course, iron! They're also known for being an aphrodisiac. Just six oysters offer us 44 percent of our daily iron needs, but you won't want to stop there after trying our Spicy Barbecued Oysters in Eatingwell.

5. White beans

Legumes are a wonderful source of iron, and white beans are the best of 'em. One cup of white beans packs not only 44 percent of your daily iron needs, it also packs 50 percent of your fiber needs (plus lots of vitamins and minerals). We love adding them to avocado toast and bulking up salads.

6. Fortified breakfast cereal

Is a bowl of cereal your breakfast of choice? Opt for a fortified version to start off your day with a dose of iron. Check the nutrition label for the amount of iron per serving: Many varieties offer 90 to 100 percent of the daily recommended value, along with other important vitamins and minerals, such as fiber, zinc, calcium, and B vitamins, Everydayhealth said.

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Photo: Globalfoodworld.life

7. Brocoli

Broccoli is incredibly nutritious. A 1-cup (156-gram) serving of cooked broccoli contains 1 mg of iron, which is 6% of the DV. What’s more, a serving of broccoli also packs 112% of the DV for vitamin C, which helps your body absorb the iron better.

The same serving size is also high in folate and provides 5 grams of fiber, as well as some vitamin K. Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage.

8. Tofu

Tofu is a soy-based food that’s popular among vegetarians and in some Asian countries. A half-cup (126-gram) serving provides 3.4 mg of iron, which is 19% of the DV. Tofu is also a good source of thiamine and several minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and selenium. In addition, it provides 22 grams of protein per serving.

Tofu contains unique compounds called isoflavones, which have been linked to improved insulin sensitivity, a decreased risk of heart disease, and relief from menopausal symptoms.

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Photo: Primochef.it

9. Dark Chocolate

You'll be pleased to learn your dark chocolate habit actually has some health benefits! One ounce of dark chocolate can pack nearly 10% of your daily iron needs! Not only that, but dark chocolate is also a good source of fiber and magnesium.

What if we absorb too much Iron?

Yes, iron can be harmful if you get too much. In healthy people, taking high doses of iron supplements (especially on an empty stomach) can cause an upset stomach, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and fainting. High doses of iron can also decrease zinc absorption.

Extremely high doses of iron (in the hundreds or thousands of mg) can cause organ failure, coma, convulsions, and death. Child-proof packaging and warning labels on iron supplements have greatly reduced the number of accidental iron poisonings in children, Ods.od.nih.gov noted.

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