Iron is essential trace mineral for our body. This mineral is component of haemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscle cells and responsible for carrying oxygen. Iron is also part of the enzymes and required in body to produce new cells, amino acids, neurotransmitters and hormones. The iron requirement for adult male is 8 mg each day and for female is 18 mg each day. The iron which is obtained from the food is of two types, heme and nonheme iron.
Heme iron or Non-vegetarian source of Iron
Heme iron is present in non-vegetarian foods. This is bound into animal tissues or haemoglobin and myoglobin of meat and gets easily absorbed in body. The source of heme iron is meat such as steamed clams (molluscs), poultry, fish, pork, sardines, mussels, oysters, seafood etc.
Non-heme iron or Vegetarian Source of iron
This type of iron is present in fruits, vegetables, dried beans, nuts and grain products. The excellent source of this iron is green peas, spinach, beans, lentils, carrot and other green leafy vegetables. Iron is also present in cooked potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes in lesser amounts.
Heme iron gets more efficiently absorbed in body compared to any other source of iron. A person who is vegetarian and depends on diet for daily iron requirement, need to consume approximately 1.8 times the daily normal requirement.
List of Food Items rich in iron
|Foods||Serving Size||Milligrams of Iron|
|100% iron-fortified Ready-to-eat cereal||¾ cup||18 mg|
|Fortified Oatmeal||1 cup||10 mg|
|Cream of Wheat||1 cup||8.1 mg|
|Boiled Soybeans||1 cup||6.6 mg|
|Lentils||1 cup||6.6 mg|
|Kidney beans, boiled||1 cup||5.2 mg|
|Tofu, raw, firm||½ cup||3.4|
|Lima beans, boiled||1 cup||4.5 mg|
|Spinach, cooked boiled, drained)||½ cup||3.2 mg|
|Spinach, raw||3.5 oz||2.7 mg|
|Spinach, canned, drained||½ cup||2.5 mg|
|Spinach, frozen, boiled, drained||½ cup||1.9 mg|
|Pistachios, cashews||1.0 oz||1.9 mg|
|Macaroni, enriched and cooked||1 cup||1.9 mg|
|Whole wheat bread||2 slices||1.8 mg|
|Enriched white bread||2 slices||1.7 mg|
|Apricots, dried, med.-size||10||1.7 mg|
|Eggs||1 medium size||1.5 mg|
|Prune juice||½ cup||1.5 mg|
|Raisins, seedless packed||½ cup||1.5 mg|
|Tuna, cooked||3.0 oz.||1.1 mg|
|Broccoli||1 stalk||1.1 mg|
|Chicken breast, roasted.||3.5 oz||1.04 mg|
|Popcorn||1.0 oz||0.86 mg|
|Almonds, raw, whole||10-12||0.7 mg|
There are certain food items which decrease iron absorption in body. Drinking of tea or coffee along with meals, antacids, excessive high fibre food intake and taking calcium and iron supplements together, are such few factors. So for better iron absorption the intake timing of calcium and iron must be different. For better absorption of iron from vegetarian source, vitamin C should be included in diet. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid can be obtained from citrus fruits, lemons, grapefruits, tomatoes, broccoli and strawberries. Also for preparing iron rich vegetables iron pans, cast iron skillets should be used.