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15 Foods Super Rich In Iron

15 Foods Super Rich In Iron

Have you ever wondered why Popeye guzzled spinach each time he had to face Bluto? That is because he needed an extra boost to help him defeat his nemesis. Spinach contains iron, an important mineral that aids in important bodily functions such as transporting oxygen in the blood and contains a number of protein that including haemoglobin, myoglobin, cytochromes, and enzymes involved in redox reaction. Transporting of oxygen in the blood is important because this process provides energy for our daily life.

Back to Popeye, the message he is giving through eating spinach is not only directed to children, but also to the adults. About one-third of the world’s population suffer from iron deficiency. Iron is lost from the body through sweat, blood loss, and through shedding of intestinal cells. An average adult man needs around 1mg of iron, while an average menstruating female needs 1.5mg. Below is a rough sketch of recommended dietary iron intakes per day:

  • Infants 0-6 months – 0.2mg for breastfed infants
  • Infants 7-12 months – 11mg
  • Girls and boys aged 1-3 years – 9mg
  • Girls and boys aged 4-8 years – 10mg
  • Girls and boys aged 9-13 years – 8mg
  • Boys aged 14-18 years – 11mg
  • Girls aged 14-18 years – 15mg
  • Women aged 19-50 years – 18mg
  • Pregnant women – 27mg
  • Lactating women – 9-10mg
  • Women aged 51 years and over – 8 mg
  • Men aged 19 years and over – 8 mg

So… what are the foods that are high in iron? Red meat, varieties of nuts, molluscs, beans and pulses… and the list goes on. For your convenience, here are the top 15 foods that are super rich in iron.

1. Molluscs (Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Cuttlefish, Octopus, Scallops, )

Iron: 28mg – 100mg

Next time you are out at a restaurant, go for the seafood platter. Molluscs like clams, mussels, oysters, and squids are crammed with nutrients, zinc, and vitamin B12. If molluscs are not your choice of food, why don’t you go for salmons, tuna, and haddock? They may have less iron in them compared to molluscs, but they are a fine substitute. If you prefer to eat seafood at home, here is a variety of recipes for you to try!

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2. Liver (Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Pork, and Turkey)

Iron: 23mg – 100mg

The first thing that comes to one’s mind is that liver consumption will risk an abundance of cholesterol. Did you know that liver contains heme iron, minerals, vitamins, and proteins? It is better to consume in moderation for pregnant women, because high levels of vitamin A present in the liver may be connected to birth defects. Here is a recipe for liver that is easy to make and is palatable at the same time.

3. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder

Iron: 17mg – 100mg

Dark chocolate is full of minerals and contains a surprising amount of fiber. It not only reduces heart attack risks, but also boosts happiness, eliminating depression. Cocoa powder has similar effects as well. While you can simply buy a bar of dark chocolate (the darker the better), with cocoa powder, you can actually add to your salads or even cereals!

4. Seeds (Pumpkin, Squash, Sesame, Sunflower, Flax)

Iron: 15mg – 100mg

These seeds are super healthy, and the best thing about them is either you can eat them as snacks, or you can add them to any of your meals to increase the amount of iron. You can pop some of the seeds on to your favorite salad, or mix them in a bread or muffin recipe.

5. Dried Fruits (Apricots, Raisins, Peaches, Prunes, Figs, Currants)

Iron: 6.3mg – 100mg

Another super healthy snack that is stashed with nutrients, this is a delicious option for those with sweet tooth. If you are wondering about the difference between dried fruits and fresh fruits, it has been found out that dried fruits are in certain ways much healthier than fresh fruits!

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6. Nuts (Cashew, Peanuts, Pine, Almond, Hazelnut)

Iron: 6.1mg – 100mg

Nuts about nuts? Good for you! Each type of nut has its own nutrient value and is rich in iron, calcium, protein, and sufficient amount of fat. You can have 10-11 unsalted nuts per day as a snack, or you can add it to your preferred recipe. Here is a fruity mincemeat with almonds recipe for you to enjoy!

7. Red meat (Beef and Lamb)

Iron: 3.7mg – 100mg

This is only applicable for the lean tenderloin of beef and lamb. Avoid the fats and you are good to eat. Many of you will be skeptical about this point, but just like liver, red meats contain heme iron which is easily absorbed by the body than other minerals. Also, please avoid cooking the meat in excess oil and spices. You can try a steak recipe for an easy dinner in less than thirty minutes.

8. Beans and Pulses (Lentils, Kidney beans, White beans, Black beans, Black-eyed peas, Chickpeas, Lima beans)

Iron: 3.7mg – 100mg

This is perfect for the vegetarians. The iron value for beans and pulses are the same as for red meats. For example, one cup of chickpeas contains a generous amount of protein, besides containing high amount of iron. But the catch is that these foods have non-heme iron. Non-heme iron can only be absorbed through vitamin C. It is known as the iron booster superstar. Papaya, bell pepper, broccoli, citrus fruits (oranges, strawberries, etc) contain enough vitamin C. So, if you can add some of these iron boosters with your beans and/or pulses, the iron intake will be easily digested by your system. Check out this healthy recipe for lentils.

9. Dried Thyme

Iron: 3.7mg – 100mg

Dried thyme has been considered  one  of the most nutritional foods. It is rich in fiber, vitamin A and C, potassium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, and the best part is it has zero cholesterol! Fresh and dried thyme can be found throughout the year, and you can add them in anything you want to: eggs, salads, or just sprinkle a handful of leaves on top of your pasta! Dried thyme is often used in herbal medicines. Learn more about thyme and you will be surprised to see the benefits of dried thyme!

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10. Dark, Leafy Greens (Spinach, Raw Kale, Cooked Turnip Greens, Raw Beet Green, Swiss Chard)

Iron: 3.6mg – 100mg

Did you know that one cup of cooked spinach is enough to provide you with 6mg of iron, plenty of protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamins A and E? Now you know the proper answer to Popeye’s spinach power! Since it is a non-heme iron, it is best cooked with other ingredients that contain vitamin C. The biggest worry is that kids dislike having spinach. You can sneak it into a recipe that kids enjoy such as this vegetable lasagna, something  both children and adults can savor.

11. Blackstrap Molasses

Iron: 3.5mg – 100mg

Studies have proved surprising health benefits of blackstrap molasses. It is not only a natural sweetener but is highly nutritious. You can use it as a hair tonic, or as a substitute for sugar, safe for diabetes patients, and you can use it as a health supplement.

12. Tofu

Iron: 2.7mg – 100mg

Research shows that tofu is an excellent source of iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, protein, and contains all eight essential amino acids. It is also a great option for vegetarians. Tofu can be used as a staple ingredient, but keep in mind that calcium can interfere with iron absorption. It is therefore recommended to buy “tofu without added calcium”. Here is a collection of ways to cook tofu.

13. Potato (Baked, Russets)

Iron: 2.1mg – 100mg

One medium baked potato contains good source of vitamins and minerals. Whereas one large russet potato contains more iron than white or red potato. The U.S Department of Agriculture recommends daily intake of potatoes for both men and women. It is also said that if you eat potatoes with meat, the non-heme iron will help in absorbing heme iron found in meat, thus helping to absorb more iron from the potatoes. You can also make a tasty potato meal ahead of time and have it for a lunch.

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14. Whole Grains, Fortified Cereals, Bran

Iron: 1.5mg – 100mg

If you are a cereal kind of a person, then kudos to you, because you are starting the day in a healthy way. These whole grains, fortified cereals, or brans contain enough iron, calcium, fiber, zinc and vitamin B to keep you energized for a long time. Check out the nutritional facts for a better understanding. Please keep in mind that whole grains are good source of iron and MUST not be taken with iron supplement.

15. Egg Noodles (Cooked)

Iron: 1.5mg – 100mg

Another staple food option, egg noodles can be very well substituted for rice. Unlike rice, noodles won’t make you feel heavy and are loaded with important vitamins and minerals. You can cook egg noodles in any way you want to. It is always better to keep the ingredients simple, and fresh. Here is an easy recipe to make egg noodles healthy, yet hearty.

Always remember, too much of calcium or calcium supplements, tannins, phytates, egg proteins and antacids are iron blockers. They will decrease the absorption of iron in your body. Instead, make sure you add vitamin C rich foods with iron rich cuisines. It does not matter whether you are a male or a female, if you don’t have enough iron in your system you are bound to suffer from anemia. It is very common and you’ll be successful in defeating anemia if you always have a iron rich food in your daily intake.

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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