If you have discovered that you aren’t getting enough iron in your diet or suspect that you aren’t, don’t feel alone. Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the world.
In our world today, especially in the United States but also present in most other countries, it is extremely common for people to have diets that are poor in vitamins and minerals. Deficiencies in either will sooner or later lead to trouble unless the issue is corrected and one of the minerals most commonly lacking is iron. As many as 97% of women, worldwide, have diets deficient in iron and nearly as many men need more iron intake.
There is a secondary problem, though. The minerals and vitamins we consume work with each other. For instance, iron isn’t properly absorbed if the body doesn’t also have an adequate supply of vitamin C. This is the reason why people are usually given orange juice to drink after donating blood. Orange juice boosts the vitamin C levels, which makes the body more able to absorb iron lost when the blood was given.
Put in another way, if a person is suffering a vitamin C deficiency, they may also be anemic or borderline anemic though their iron intake is good.
When we look at foods that are rich in iron, then, we should also consider those that contain vitamin C. Many foods have high iron levels, yet contain very little of the vitamin. This too can be overcome, though.
As an example, red meat, like beef, venison, and elk, is high in iron. It is also low in vitamin C. However, a lean venison steak that is served with tomato slices provides the vitamin since tomatoes are high in vitamin C and also contain iron.
Likewise, beans are high in iron but low in vitamin C. But cooked in chili, which has tomato products added, the vitamin C content is increased.
Some fruits and vegetables are naturally high in both iron and vitamin C. As previously mentioned, tomatoes contain both iron and vitamin C. Other examples include dark green vegetables like spinach, chard, watercress, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens and bell peppers. Even plums, apples and oranges contain iron, though not in quantities as high as those of the foods mentioned earlier.
For those who like wild foods or who want to try them, stinging nettle is exceptionally high in vitamin C, iron and fiber. The same is true of nasturtium leaves, dock, dandelions, and wild chives. Rose-hip tea is high in both iron and vitamin C, too.
When it comes to vegetables, though, few can top members of the cauliflower family for a perfect balance of vitamin C and iron. This includes cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and cabbage. Artichokes are also high in both, and using lemon butter as a dip can increase vitamin C intake.
The point is that there are many food sources that are high in iron. Many are extremely high in iron. People who love eating tomatoes, beans, red meat, and any of the cauliflower family seldom have trouble getting enough natural iron. But without vitamin C, the body is in essence flushing most of it away.
Do yourself a favor; if you want to increase your iron, don’t do it exclusively. Also be sure to increase your vitamin intake, particularly of vitamin C, as well. Luckily, there are quite a few foods that are rich in both iron and in vitamin C, all in one nice, neat, natural package.