Iron is essential for a healthy body and mind. It acts like an oxygen transporter in the blood and helps your body develop stronger immunity, cognitive functions and physical performance. With all the benefits of iron, it may surprise you to know that many people aren't getting the recommended amount every day -- something that varies between genders, ages and body types. If you're looking to add an extra 18 mg of iron to your daily diet, a few food switches are just the thing to help.
Increase your iron absorption by pairing foods in the right combinations. Your body doesn't absorb iron from plants as well as iron from animals, but eating a bit of meat with your veggies will increase the total amount of iron you pick up from the meal. Vitamin C -- from things like strawberries, oranges and red peppers -- will also up your iron absorption.
Eat meat. Red meat, mollusks, poultry giblets and liver are all good sources of heme iron, the kind most readily absorbed by the body. Even though you can get iron from plant or grain sources, they aren't as easily absorbed and you'll have to eat more or increase your absorption rates. Eating 100 mg of duck liver -- not very much -- will provide you with 30 mg of iron, far more than the 18 mg you want to ingest.
Eat beans and lentils. Both of these pair well with meat -- combine ham with lentils, for example, and you can have a super bowl of soup. One cup of lentils has almost 7 mg of iron, while a serving of ham has 2.6 mg. If you ate two servings of soup, you'd have ingested just over 18 mg of iron for the day in one meal.
Try a bowl of cereal with a glass of orange juice for breakfast. Many cereals have high amounts of iron -- up to 18 mg -- and the orange juice will help you absorb the iron that isn't from a meat source.
Munch on dark green veggies, like spinach. Every 1/2 cup of cooked spinach has 2 mg of iron and won't add a ton of calories to your daily diet. Pair 1 cup of fresh spinach with 1 cup of Swiss chard to get 8 mg of iron in one salad. Top that with 3 tbsp. of pumpkin seeds at 3 mg of iron, and a serving of tofu at 7 mg of iron and you're up to 18 for the day without eating meat. Just make sure you drink some juice high in vitamin C to help you absorb all that iron.
Cut way back on the coffee and tea. The tannins in those beverages act like iron binders, stopping the iron you're eating from being absorbed by your system.