We all remember Popeye the Sailor Man throwing back that famous can of spinach, don’t we? As his animated biceps burst from that sailor suit, we were reminded of how much nutritional power greens really hold. While iron and minerals won’t literally make muscles bulge on command, though many might wish they did, they are still essential for proper development and good health. Maintaining healthy levels of iron is best obtained through a balanced diet. Thankfully, there is a whole world of iron-rich foods at your fingertips.
Dietary supplements are another option to keep your iron levels where they should be, but it is important to understand the risks of too much iron in your diet as well. Knowing what iron does for the body and what too much or too little iron looks like can aid in maintaining optimal health.
What Is Iron?
Iron is a naturally occurring trace mineral and a proud member of the periodic table of elements. It is a crucial component of hemoglobin, the protein in blood that delivers oxygen to your body’s cells, as well as myoglobin, which provides oxygen to muscle tissue. Iron is also responsible for the production of some hormones as well as connective tissue. You obtain iron from food by eating plants that stored iron and other nutrients from the soil they grew in. You also indirectly obtain minerals by eating meat from animals that consume these plants.
The ‘heme’ iron taken in by eating an animal product is actually more easily absorbed than the ‘non-heme’ iron found in leafy greens and plant life, due to it being derived from the animal’s hemoglobin. Since it is considered a trace element, as opposed to a ‘macro’ element, such as calcium or magnesium, the body only needs a small amount to get the job done. These amounts can easily be obtained through a well-balanced diet.
Continue reading to reveal popular food sources of iron.