Low levels of iron in the blood cause a condition known as iron-deficiency anemia, which results in fatigue, irritability and an increased heart rate. If you have anemia, you may need to introduce more iron into your diet. Many people prefer to eat iron-rich foods rather than take iron supplements, because supplements sometimes cause side effects such as constipation and stomach irritation. Increasing your iron levels through your dietary choices requires healthy, iron-rich foods.
Consult with a doctor regarding your current iron levels. Your doctor will perform blood tests to assess the iron content in your blood, and he will advise you exactly how much iron you need to reach a healthy level. Blood tests will give you a baseline value, and you will be able to measure changes as you alter your diet. You should ask your doctor for guidance regarding your dietary needs for iron-rich foods.
Choose iron-rich meat for your daily meals. Meats such as beef, liver, lamb and pork are all excellent sources of iron. In addition, darker cuts of chicken or turkey and shellfish, including clams, mussels and oysters, all provide iron. Consuming entrees that include a variety of these meats will ensure that you have adequate iron in your daily diet.
Make side dishes and salads with dark, leafy greens. If you only consume meat occasionally or not at all, dark leafy vegetables are key sources of dietary iron. Consume them as a side dish or in a large salad. Iron-rich greens include broccoli, kale, spinach, and collard or turnip greens.
Eat plenty of beans and peas and whole grain foods. Legumes such as pinto beans, black beans, green peas and chickpeas all contain iron and can be used to create a variety of tasty recipes. Whole grain breads, pastas, cereals and rice are also good sources of iron. Include them in simple meals such as sandwiches or pasta salads.
Monitor your iron levels on a regular basis. If you are altering your diet to address an iron deficiency, it is important to have consistent blood tests to assess your iron levels. Your doctor may wish to use an iron supplement if your iron levels are very low and your diet does not result in noticeable improvements.