According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, iron deficiency is one of the most common forms of nutrient deficiencies on the planet. It is estimated that up to 80-percent of the world's population is low in iron.
Without this mineral, it would be impossible for you to transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Even your muscle function would behave as if it is exhausted and weak.
Here are 5 foods to incorporate into your diet for better strength and energy.
5 Iron-Rich Foods
1. Red Meat
When it comes to getting iron in its most useful and bioavailable form (heme iron), red meat is one of your best bets.
From grass-fed beef to liver, red meat has long been heralded as a plentiful source of iron. For women who are heavy bleeders during menstruation, heme iron from meat sources is one of the most efficient ways to stay on top of a woman's iron replenishment needs.
Since more and more people are turning vegetarian, we also included meat-free alternatives.
Plant-based iron is called non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is not as easy for the body to readily use, but enough of it can be consumed in a vegetarian or vegan diet to ensure proper iron stores will be maintained.
Spinach is one of the common sources of iron that vegetarians turn to when they need to improve their energy. Anyone who knows Popeye is familiar with the energy-boosting properties of spinach, even if you did not know that iron was the primary component in the spinach that helped it pack such a punch.
An added benefit of getting iron from green leafy vegetables like spinach is that they often also contain vitamin C.
Mushrooms have long been known for their nutritional value and healing properties. They are also known for being a great source of non-heme iron. However, one of the difficulties with mushrooms is their short shelf life.
This means you must take care in how you store mushrooms to preserve their nutrient properties and ensure that they will stay fresh longer. One way to do this is to put them whole and unpeeled into a Ziploc bag.
If you want to store them long-term (say six to eight months), then you will need to cook them first. Once they are cooked, you can put them in a freezer-safe food bag and store them in your freezer. Find out more about how to extend the shelf life of your mushrooms.
There are many types of beans that will provide you with a decent amount of non-heme iron. Two types of beans that come to mind are black beans and garbanzo beans.
Whether you like a hardy black bean soup or just want to toss a few garbanzo beans into your dinnertime salad, there are a great variety of ways to prepare beans to take full advantage of their iron properties. You might even try making your own hummus spread to utilize the iron in garbanzo beans. Or you make black beans with quinoa and vegetables—delicious!
When it comes to iron-rich foods that work well to ramp up energy in your body, a type of blue-green algae called spirulina is an iron powerhouse. It comes in tablet or powder form and is predominantly used in smoothies.
A small bit of spirulina provides your body with a significant portion of the daily requirement of iron you.
Along with iron, spirulina is loaded with vitamin C, B vitamins, and amino acids—among other nutrients.
Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat eater, there are plenty of iron-rich foods to help you increase your body's energy reserves. There is no reason to suffer from iron deficiency with the iron-rich food options out there! If you find yourself still struggling after changing your eating, you should see your doctor.
Once your body gets enough iron, it becomes easier to transport oxygen from your lungs to virtually any cell in your body. This, in turn, will cause any lingering signs of anemia to disappear. You will breathe better, feel more alert, and your muscles will function at peak strength as they should.