Some people find it hard to get enough iron; others absorb and store too much (that’s a hereditary disorder called hemochromatosis). But everyone should pay attention to the amount of iron per serving on Nutrition Facts labels. Iron is shown as a percentage of its Daily Value (DV), which is 18 milligrams (mg). So food with 15 per cent of your DV for iron would have 2.7 mg iron per serving (multiply 18 by 0.15).
The 18 mg iron DV covers the needs of healthy, premenopausal women who aren’t pregnant. Men and postmenopausal women need 8 mg per day. People who need less iron should avoid highly iron-fortified foods (anything more than 20 per cent of the DV). But if you have an iron deficiency, those foods are right up your alley.
Iron comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. We absorb heme iron best. Both forms are in meat (especially red meats), fish, and poultry. Fortified foods and plant foods contain only non-heme iron. To boost iron levels, eat non-heme sources with heme sources, such as meat. Vitamin C and fructose (fruit sugar) also increase non-heme iron absorption a tasty reason to eat dark chocolate (supplying non-heme iron) with strawberries (containing fructose and vitamin C). For better absorption, pair non-heme iron foods with vitamin C and fructose-containing foods.
Not enough iron can make you feel tired and unfocused because iron (as haemoglobin) helps transport oxygen to your body’s cells. But too much iron, especially from heme iron, can cause bodily inflammation and may increase risk of type 2 and gestational diabetes. Studies suggest excess iron more likely if you consume a lot of heme iron may decrease how well your insulin works and damage insulin-producing cells. Just one more reason to eat red meats in moderation.
Naturally Good Sources of Non-Heme Iron