You don’t have to be Ironman to reap the benefits iron has to offer your health. Iron, from the Latin “ferrum” (hence the Fe on the periodic table), is a crucial mineral required for proper body functioning. Unlike vitamins which are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid, minerals like iron are inorganic and actually maintain their chemical structure even after being ingested.
What does iron do exactly? It plays a major role in hemoglobin, the substance in your blood that helps circulate oxygen from your lungs to all the important places that need it – brain, muscles, heart, organs, and so on. Iron powers the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and without enough, your body can lose energy and become fatigued. The amount of iron you need will vary by your sex, age, and for women, fertility. For example, men and postmenopausal women need 8 to 10 mg of iron a day, pregnant women should aim for at least 27 mg a day, and all other women 18 to 50 who are nursing or not pregnant need around 18 mg a day. Note, the percentages below are based on the 18 mg requirement for the larger demographic. Check out these 10 top picks for foods that will load you up with health-boosting iron:
This versatile dark leafy green can make its way into just about anything – salads, smoothies, dips, soups, you name it. Simply packed with iron, one 10 oz. package of raw spinach will contain almost 8 grams of iron, or 42% of your daily value. In addition to iron, spinach boasts loads of Vitamins A and C, as well as bone-building calcium, muscle-protecting protein, fiber and Vitamin B-6. Low in fat and cholesterol while high in potassium and magnesium, spinach is a lower calorie vegetable that fuels a number of vital biochemical processes including blood oxygenation and muscle contraction.