The Importance of Iron in Our Diet – How Much Iron Do We Actually Need?
November 21, 2023
How much iron does our body need?
Now, do you know that the average adult male should consume at least 10 mg of iron daily, while the average adult female requires 18 mg to maintain healthy bodily functions? I know that’s a figure that’s quite hard to wrap our head around. So, for example, a boiled egg contains around 0.9 mg of iron! So while we think that an adult male can get enough iron from perhaps 11 boiled eggs a day, it’s crucial that we understand that only 5% to 10% of the iron in our diet is actually absorbed by our body. In addition, iron found in plants, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, is harder for the body to absorb. Thus, vegetarians should consume plenty of iron-rich foods!
Why is iron so important?
Iron plays a vital role in the production of haemoglobin, which is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to different tissues and organs. Deficiency in iron may impair cognitive functions and cause poor concentration. Iron is also necessary for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. In addition, a healthy iron level is important for successful blood donation.
How do we increase the levels of iron in our blood?
We can enjoy iron-rich foods together with foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, to improve the body’s absorption of iron. We can also reduce our intake of tea, coffee, and calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt while we are having an iron-rich meal. Tannins in tea, caffeine in coffee and calcium reduce iron absorption.
Food options at a food court that can increase iron levels in blood
Vegetarian cuisine – eg : Yong Tau Foo, Vegetarian Cai Fan
- All kinds of beans and their products such as bean curd have a higher iron content
- Dark green leafy vegetables have more iron than others. So, spinach, kale, kang kong have a higher iron content than vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower.
- Opt for brown rice as it has a significantly higher iron content than white rice
Dishes with meat — eg : Nasi Padang with meat, Prawn Noodles, Steak
- Iron found in meat, poultry, and seafood is better absorbed by our body than iron found in vegetables
- In terms of iron content, beef ranks first, followed by pork, duck, then chicken.
- Shellfish such as clams, prawns and oysters will have more iron than fish
Dessert — eg : Sticky Date Pudding, Sesame Paste
- Fruits like prune, figs, dates and longans have a higher iron content
- Nuts and seeds like cashew and sesame are great choices too
- Orange juice might not be a strong source of iron, but its high vitamin c content helps the body absorb iron more efficiently.
- On the other hand, coffee and tea inhibit the absorption of iron.
If you have an hour for lunch, consider this: by the end of it, Singapore would have needed 14 units of blood. At present, only 1.82% of the residential population in Singapore donates blood. On average, 1 in 4 donors are turned away because they do not meet the donor eligibility criteria. And one of the most common reasons is low levels of haemoglobin.
Most of us are probably not that aware of the amount of iron present in the foods that we consume. Hence, many are taken aback when they are told that their haemoglobin levels are low. Males actually require at least 13.0 g/dl and females at least 12.5 g/dl to be eligible to donate blood. Check out more iron-rich food here : https://www.hsa.gov.sg/blood-donation/maintain-healthy-iron-levels
One unit of blood can save up to 3 lives! So, if you have plans to donate blood, we hope this video is helpful on what kind of food you should go for to up your iron intake! You can head down to bloodbanks around SG, such as Bloodbank@One Punggol to donate blood.
Visit giveblood.sg for more information.
This post is brought to you by Singapore Red Cross