As a college student, being tired is practically second nature. It's hard to catch up on my sleep while trying to also balance school work and a social life. But before you blame yourself for being constantly tired too (if you aren't, there's something wrong with you), you should know about iron deficiency and its effects.
If you’re a woman, a vegetarian, a vegan, or a distance runner, you have a much higher risk of being iron deficient or developing iron deficiency anemia. While it's normal for students to experience fatigue, shortness of breath, lack of energy, and headaches, these all are telling symptoms of an iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States, as well as the world. While I don’t want to impose a diagnosis on you, iron is an important mineral in everyone’s diet. It helps transport oxygen through the blood, as well as improving your skin, nail, and hair cells. Whether you already are forced to get blood tests constantly to keep track of your iron levels, or you don’t know if you’re iron deficient, it's something you should keep tabs on.
Fortunately, I've learned that the there are better ways to get iron than taking seemingly endless supplements and eating liver. Iron-rich foods can be made bearable to eat. The best part is that the excuse, “I’m trying to eat more iron” is a justifiable reason to eat a burger or a number of other healthy options.
Looking to increase the amount of iron you're getting in your diet? You're in luck. I did the dirty work for you and found seven ways you can easily incorporate iron into your diet. You'll be on the road to feeling amazing and energized in no time.
1. Red Meat
Burgers, steak, you name it. If you're not a vegetarian, I don't see a reason why you shouldn't indulge now and again. It's the best way to get heme-iron, which your body absorbs 2 to 3 times better than the non-heme iron from plants. You don't need to look any further for some steak education or burger inspiration.
2. Leafy Green Vegetables
It is possible to enjoy a spinach or kale salad, just ask one of your sweetgreen-obsessed friends. You can easily incorporate leafy green vegetables, including kale, spinach, broccoli, and romaine (bonus points if you actually like cabbage!) into a salad, green smoothie, or a side to your dinner to get your necessary iron dosage in.
3. Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes
Pistachios, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, and cashews all provide a good amount of your daily value of iron. Legumes like lentils are also a quick and tasty way to get your iron. The most random seeds also are high in iron, including pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
4. Whole Grains and Iron-Enriched Cereals
You'd be surprised by the amount of grains that can provide iron— bread, oatmeal, rice, and quinoa all can be iron-fortified or naturally contain iron.
5. Clams and Oysters
A little known fact about clams and oysters is that they're a true power food. Along with supplementing your body a ton of minerals, a three ounce serving of clams provides you with more than the daily recommended iron intake.
6. Dark Chocolate
Since you probably already know about all the health benefits of chocolate, I'll add another, lesser known benefit to the list: it actually has a decent amount of iron in it. An average square of dark chocolate has almost a third of your daily value of iron. In other words, chocolate is still good for you, right?
7. Pair it with Vitamin C
Getting enough Vitamin C is the best way help iron absorption. Go for peppers, kale, berries, pineapple, mango, kiwis, you name it. Your body will thank you. Citrus fruits and juices have twice as much Vitamin C. Make sure you don't backtrack all your progress by watching out for iron-absorption enemies, like caffeine and calcium.