The body needs iron for the production of hemoglobin, which is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Without sufficient iron intake, the level of hemoglobin drops, leading to a decrease in the number of functioning red blood cells and a condition known as iron-deficiency anemia. Doctors may prescribe iron supplements for those at risk for developing anemia, such as pregnant women, or those who suffer from anemia. Since taking iron supplements can affect the absorption of other minerals or lead to iron overload, consider iron supplement alternatives to help boost your iron levels.
Food From Animal Sources
To maintain your iron levels, eat a healthy well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods. Food sources contain two chemical forms of iron ꟷ heme iron and non-heme iron. according to Global Healing Center. Heme iron, named because it comes from hemoglobin, is considered to be the healthiest because your body is able to absorb it 15 to 35 percent better than non-heme foods at 2 to 20 percent . The best substitute for iron supplements is food containing heme iron that occurs in animal-derived foods, such as meat, poultry and fish. Chicken liver provides the highest level of available iron, containing 12.8 mg in a 3.5 oz serving, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. To receive the most benefit, increase the amount of seafood, such as oysters and clams, and beef, turkey and chicken in your diet as an alternative to iron tablets as a supplement.
- USDA National National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Liver, all Classes, Raw
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- Livestrong.com: Iron Deficiency & Anemia in Men
- Livestrong.com: Iron-Rich Foods for Iron Deficiency and Anemia
- Livestrong.com: Iron Deficiency That Is Not Anemia
- Livestrong.com: Foods Rich in Isoflavones
- Livestrong.com: Foods That Inhibit Iron Absorption
- Global Healing Center: Heme Iron Vs. Nonheme Iron: What’s the Difference?
- University of Maryland: Low Iron Levels
- Livestrong.com: Foods Containing Calcium
- Eating for Energy: The Soy Story
- WomensHealth.gov: Iron-Deficiency Anemia
- Livestrong.com: Complete List of Foods That Help Absorb Iron