Often tired, a little anaemic, a little pale… Maybe you lack iron? But by choosing the right foods and adopting the right reflexes, it is possible to avoid deficiencies. List, table and tips.
Your ferritin level is too low? It is necessary prefer foods rich in “heme” iron, which is better absorbed by the body. List and advice with Laura Azenard, naturopath.
Which foods contain heme iron?
Our diet contains two types of iron: heme iron (best absorbed) and non-heme iron.
► heme iron is contained in animal proteins such as red meat, fish and shellfishs (mussels, oysters), offal (liver, kidney), charcuterie (blood pudding)… heme iron is relatively well assimilated during digestion : it is estimated that it is 25% bioavailable (the bioavailability of dietary iron corresponds to the percentage of dietary iron that crosses the intestinal barrier). Namely that red meat or fish have a good zinc content, a trace element that contributes to a good absorption of iron.
► the non-heme iron is contained in fruit, vegetables and legumes. These products have a lower iron content and the latter is much less absorbent than heme iron: it is estimated that it is bioavailable up to 10%. Namely that among the foods that contain non-heme iron, there are algae. These latter contain complexed iron, that is, this iron has the peculiarity of being surrounded by vegetable molecules, which allows it to be much better assimilated by the body. That spirulina, wakame or dulse are algae that have a good content of complex bound iron. But how do you eat them? That spirulina can be found in food supplements, in powder or flakes that can be sprinkled on soups, salads, steamed vegetables or compotes. But be careful, “spirulina is a true “sponge” and tends to soak up anything in the air or water it comes in contact with, including pollutants. It is therefore better to choose the one with the “Spiruliniers de France” logo, a mark that respects ecological obligations and a healthy growing environment.“, recommends the naturopath.
What is the list of iron rich foods?
- spirulina (consume it in powder or flakes sprinkled on your salads, soups or green juices)
- black pudding (add it to your menus once a week)
- beef and duck meat
- viscera: kidneys, liver
- dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
- mussels and oysters
- White beans
- whole grains: oatmeal, whole barley, oat bran, whole wheat
- dried aromatic herbs: thyme, basil, mint, marjoram, Provence herbs, parsley, spicy, oregano…
- cumin seeds, fenugreek, fennel, coriander, chia, sesame…
Spinach? According to Popeye, spinach is an incredible source of iron. However, with only 3mg per 100g, this vegetable is far from the product that contains the most. Cooked and cooked, however, spinach would contain more iron than raw. Plus, they’re powerful antioxidants and good sources of vitamin C.
Table of foods richest in iron
Below is the table above the richest foods that can easily be favored to increase your ferritin levels. We do not voluntarily present the complete list of foods according to their iron content, because the amounts that need to be consumed to benefit from the benefits would be very high indeed (eg: dried thyme contains 124 mg of iron per 100 grams ; dried basil 90 mg/100 g or even dried mint 87.5 mg/100 g) or foods that are difficult to eat (raw liver, eg richer in iron than cooked liver).
|Food||Iron content (in mg per 100 g)|
|Sautéed/pan-fried black pudding||23|
|Dark chocolate without added sugar, in tablets||22.8|
|Boiled pork liver||17.9|
|Braised lamb kidney||12.4|
|Boiled chicken liver||12|
|Boiled chicken liver||11.6|
|Dark chocolate with 70% minimum cocoa, extra, tasting, bar||11|
|Fruit “balance” breakfast cereal, enriched with vitamins and minerals||10.6|
|Wheat leaves with walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds, enriched with vitamins and minerals||10.4|
|Breakfast bar with cereal with milk, chocolate or not, enriched with vitamins and minerals||9.65|
|Kidney, beef, boiled||9.5|
|Gizzard, duck, confit, canned||9.4|
|Poultry liver pâté||9.19|
|Dark chocolate with dried fruit (hazelnuts, almonds, raisins, praline), tablet||8.7|
|Fish and shellfish, cooked, frozen||8.48|
|Clams, canned, drained||8.44|
|Blonde lentils, dry||7.4|
|Flageolet bean, green, dry||7.3|
Considered (Table of nutritional composition of Ciqual foods)
► The Iron from plants is absorbed much better if combined with foods rich in vitamin C such as kiwi, red fruits, citrus fruits, guavas, peppers, fennel, spinach, cabbage… Ideally chosen as fresh as possible, seasonal, local and organic. “The idea is to combine legumes with vegetables rich in vitamin C : therefore we will not hesitate to prepare a pan-fried lentils with peppers for example!“, advises the naturopath.
► “Anything that is fermented will increase iron absorption, e.g sauerkraut or sourdough bread which will also increase the digestibility of the food“.
► Whole grains (whole wheat, brown rice) and legumes (beans, lentils) contain phytic acid in their shell, a biomolecule that prevents proper assimilation of nutrients. It is therefore advisable to soak whole grains and legumes (or sprout them) before cooking to remove phytic acid.
► You must beware of water that is too mineralized (such as Hépar or Contrex) which gives an excess of minerals (zinc, magnesium, calcium…). These can slow the assimilation of iron.
► The nutritional quality of all minerals changes above 100°C, hence the interest in switch to gentle cooking (stewed, steamed, etc.) and at low temperature. Note that vitamin C is even more fragile as it deteriorates from 60°C.
Should we avoid tea and coffee when we lack iron?
It is actually necessary watch out for the tannins in tea, red wine or coffee, which can alter the absorption of iron of plant origin. It is considered better to drink a tea (ideally green or sencha, as these teas are oxidizing and rich in vitamin C) or a coffee between 30 minutes and 1 hour after the meal rather than at the same time.
Avoid iron overload!
Iron is an antioxidant when the body has a normal level. On the other hand, if it is in excess, it becomes highly oxidative and can cause fatigue, a feeling of weakness and develop complications affecting the heart, liver and endocrine organs. “Take care of heme iron, as our body absorbs it very well, some people – who overconsume red meat or processed meat – may experience iron overload and be at risk of developing low-grade inflammation (the gut is damaged and becomes porous)“, explains the expert. And if the body is overloaded with iron, there is a greater risk of developing a hemochromatosis (genetic disease associated with excessive iron absorption), or cardiovascular or respiratory disease, metabolic syndrome, or type 2 diabetes. Iron overload is relatively rare and can be treated if caught early. This problem concerns more certain men and women over 50, who are less able to remove iron.
Thanks to Laura Azenard, naturopath.