Is Chicken a Source of Iron?

Chicken legs grilling  on a barbecue
Three large pieces of grilled chicken on a barbecue. (Image: Ralwel/iStock/Getty Images)

Chicken is often cited as a healthy food for both general health and dieting, as it is rich in protein and provides minimal fat. In addition to these characteristics, chicken also offers a number of micronutrients -- vitamins and minerals -- including iron. While many other foods contain iron, chicken also has other beneficial nutrients that may make it a good choice for your diet.

Benefits of Iron

Iron is a mineral that you need to consume every day to ensure optimal health. Iron is part of the structure of many of your body's enzymes and proteins, including hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout your body. Iron also aids in the development and differentiation of new cells.

Iron Content in Chicken

A 3.5-oz. serving of chicken breast provides 1 mg of iron, which comprises 12.5 percent of the daily recommended intake for men and 5.5 percent of the daily recommended intake for women. Because of its role in cell development and differentiation, pregnant women need more iron -- 27 mg per day. A 3.5-oz. serving of chicken breast provides only about 4 percent of this amount.

Risks of Inadequate Iron

Consuming inadequate levels of iron can have serious consequences. One of the most prominent issues is the risk of iron-deficiency anemia, a condition that can leave you feeling dizzy, short of breath, lacking energy and suffering from headaches. Too little iron can also compromise your immune system, impair your cognitive performance and inhibit your ability to maintain a stable body temperature.

Iron Overdose

Just as too little iron can cause health problems, so can consumption of too much iron. The upper limit of daily iron intake for men, women, pregnant women and nursing mothers is 45 mg. Too much iron can cause fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and a grayish tint to your skin.

Other Nutrients in Chicken

Chicken provides other important nutrients in addition to iron. These nutrients include zinc, potassium, choline and vitamin A. A typical 3.5-oz.chicken breast provides 165 calories, with 31 g of protein, 3.6 g of fat and no carbohydrates.

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