Iron is an essential mineral for your body, playing a vital role in oxygen transport, energy metabolism, and immune function. There are two forms of iron, heme and non-heme, which differ in their origin and absorption. Discover the best foods that can help you meet your daily iron needs and learn how to incorporate them into your diet!
What Is Iron?
Iron is an essential mineral for the proper functioning of the human body. There are two main forms of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron(1):
- Heme iron is mainly found in animal products such as red meat, poultry, and fish. It is easily absorbed by the body and is often considered a very good source of iron;
- Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods like leafy green vegetables, legumes, and enriched cereal products. This type of iron is less well absorbed by the body. Ideally, you should consume both sources of iron daily to easily meet recommended daily intake.
The absorption of iron also varies from person to person, depending on several factors such as the amount of iron reserves in your body and your diet. Some foods or drinks, such as green tea, can reduce iron absorption, while others like sources of vitamin C, for example, promote it!
What Is Its Role in the Body?
As a trace element, iron plays an important role in the transport and storage of oxygen. Hemoglobin, present in red blood cells, uses iron to transport oxygen from the lungs to organs and tissues, as well as muscular tissue.
Aside from its role in oxygen transport, iron also contributes to DNA synthesis and the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and adrenaline. It is also involved in the process of cell division. Whether taken in the form of dietary supplements or through food sources, iron helps support normal energy metabolism, strengthen natural defenses, and contribute to normal cognitive function(2). As you can see, it's an essential element for your body!
Foods Rich in Iron
Iron is present in many everyday foods, making it a relatively easy trace element to consume. Here are the best food sources of iron to prioritize in your diet:
Red Meats and Seafood
Red meat, such as beef and lamb, is high in iron content. White meats can also be interesting to consume: 100g of chicken contains about 1.3 mg of iron. Meat products are also rich in animal proteins and B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, which is essential for red blood cell formation. Mium Lab recommends choosing gentle cooking methods such as baking, grilling, or steaming to preserve nutrients. Often overlooked, organ meats are certainly among the richest iron-rich foods! Veal liver, duck liver, or pork liver can be consumed in a more appetizing form, such as pâté with herbs, for example.
When it comes to seafood, oysters, mussels, and shrimp also provide a significant amount of heme iron, the type of iron most easily absorbed by the body.
Lentils and Legumes
Legumes, in addition to their iron content, are rich in fiber, plant proteins, folate (vitamin B9), and magnesium. They represent an excellent alternative to heme iron sources for people following a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you follow a regular diet, you can also combine these two types of iron to maximize your intake, for example, by combining ground meat and red beans.
When it comes to cooking, there are many recipes to prepare legumes according to your preferences! Dry lentils, for example, can be prepared as soup, salad, or curry. For a snack, opt for hummus made from chickpeas to boost your iron intake or enjoy them roasted in the oven for a crunchy snack!
In addition to legumes, whole grains, in addition to providing iron, are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Quinoa, for example, is an excellent source of complete plant proteins and can be used as a base for salads or side dishes. For breakfast, swap out your bread slices for oatmeal flakes! They contain 6 mg of iron per 100g of flakes. They can be prepared as oatmeal with milk or incorporated into the preparation of muffins or healthy cookies.
Leafy Green Vegetables
In addition to their iron content, leafy green vegetables also contain fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium. Easy to prepare and budget-friendly, spinach can be consumed raw in salads or cooked in stir-fries, soups, or side dishes. They are also rich in vitamin C, which, as we've seen, helps increase iron absorption. Broccoli, which also contains this vitamin, is delicious when steamed, sautéed, or grilled. It can also be incorporated into many dishes like casseroles.
What Are the Daily Iron Requirements?
According to ANSES(3), the daily iron intake for adults is 1 mg for men and 2 mg for women due to menstrual losses, especially if they have heavy periods. Infants, children, and adolescents also have high needs. Adopting a balanced diet during this period is essential to avoid iron deficiency.
In case of inadequate intake, discover our iron gummies! Formulated with iron in the form of micro-encapsulated ferrous saccharate, they are also pleasant and easy to take as a supplement with their delicious red fruit and yuzu flavor. Discover them now on our online shop!
It should be noted that the intake of iron dietary supplements should ideally be done under medical supervision to avoid the risk of overdose. Indeed, while deficiency can manifest as iron-deficiency anemia with the onset of headaches and fatigue, an excess of iron can also lead to certain consequences if your intestinal function is impaired.
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