Iron and the Keto Diet

Iron is an extremely important nutrient that serves many functions in the human body. It provides oxygen to muscles, aids in the synthesis of hormones, and plays a role in cellular functioning (1). It’s an integral part of every diet, and the keto diet is no exception.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make sure you’re getting enough iron while sticking to the keto diet. By researching high-iron foods and monitoring your daily intake, you won’t have any trouble meeting your daily iron goals. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to make sure your iron levels are optimal.

Monitoring Your Iron Intake is Easy With MyFitnessPal

The recommended daily iron intake for men over 18 is 8 mg. For women between 19 and 50, 18 mg is recommended. After age 51, 8 mg is recommended for women as well. Furthermore, pregnant women are recommended to have 27 mg of iron per day (1).The only way you can be sure you’re meeting the recommended daily intake for your age group is by tracking your iron.

People who follow the keto diet sometimes think they don’t need to track their iron. Since they’re often eating a substantial amount of meat, they assume their iron levels are fine. In reality, it’s possible to have low iron levels while eating meat regularly.

MyFitnessPal allows you to easily track your iron levels. This helpful app lets you calculate your daily iron goal based off your height and weight. By recording the foods you eat throughout the day in the app, you can view your progress towards your goal.

Understand the Difference Between Heme and Non-Heme Iron

When striving to meet your daily iron goal, it’s important to understand the difference between the two types of dietary iron. Heme iron is found in lean meats and seafood, and is absorbed by the body more effectively. Non-heme iron is found in plant sources such as leafy greens and nuts (1). Although you can still reach your daily iron goals from eating foods with non-heme iron, you should aim to consume foods high in heme iron if possible.

Learn to Identify High-Iron Keto Foods
Many of the foods you’re used to eating regularly on the keto diet are naturally high in iron. Meats are excellent natural sources of heme iron and should be consumed often. Beef liver is an exceptionally good choice, as a 3 ounce serving contains 5 mg of iron. If you prefer to stay away from organ meats, beef bottom round will give you 2 mg of iron per 3 ounce serving. Turkey breast and chicken are also good choices, and each contain 1 mg of iron per 3 ounce serving (1).

Seafood is also a great source of heme iron. Oysters provide 8 mg of iron per 3 ounce serving, which is more than most meats. Canned tuna is also a good source, providing 1 mg of iron per 3 ounce serving (1).

There are plenty of non-heme iron foods that are suitable for the keto diet as well. Spinach is a great option, and a 1/2 cup serving contains 3 mg of iron. Green peas are a decent choice as well, with a 1/2 cup serving containing 1 mg of iron. If you aren’t in the mood for either of those, try a 1/2 cup serving of broccoli for 1 mg of iron (1).

Supplementing Your Diet May Be Necessary to Avoid Iron Deficiency

If you’ve been tracking your iron and are still falling short of your goals, supplementing your diet is the next step. Taking a daily iron supplement will help you stay healthy and avoid the dangers of iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency causes anemia, which can lead to many other serious symptoms. Women are at a greater risk for iron deficiency than men, especially during pregnancy. Some symptoms of anemia are gastrointestinal distress, impaired cognitive and immune function, and poor body temperature regulation. People suffering from anemia may also have difficulty exercising and even working (1).

When supplementing your diet with iron, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s possible to have too much iron as well. When taking supplements containing over 20 mg of iron, gastric upset, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and faintness can result. In doses over 25 mg, zinc absorption can be negatively impacted. Doses of over 60 mg can lead to organ failure, coma and death (1). It’s important to exercise caution when taking iron supplements to avoid these dangerous side effects.

Do Your Research and Choose the Right Supplement

There are many reputable iron supplements on the market to choose from. You should choose the best supplement based on your individual needs. The recommended daily iron intake varies based on gender and age, so it’s important to do your research before committing to a supplement.

Women between the ages of 19 and 50 are recommended to consume 18 mg of iron a day. The NutraBio Chelated Iron 18 mg Veggie Caps will help you easily reach your daily iron goals if you fall into this category. The 18 mg Veg Capsules by NOW Foods are equally effective.

Although men over 19 only require 8 mg of iron a day, both of these supplements are suitable for men looking to supplement their iron intake as well.

Since pregnant women require 27 mg of iron a day, additional iron supplementation may be required. The NOW Foods 36 mg Double Strength Veg Capsules are the best choice to help pregnant women reach their high daily iron requirements.

When taking your iron supplement, be sure to avoid milk, antacids, and calcium supplements. Calcium decreases your body’s ability to absorb iron, so it’s best to avoid it for several hours before and after you take your iron supplement. On the other hand, vitamin C can help your body absorb iron more effectively. Taking your iron supplement with a glass of calcium-free orange juice can aid in absorption (2).

Meeting Your Iron Goals on the Keto Diet Doesn’t Have to be Difficult

Researching iron intake on the keto diet gives you a better understanding of how to make sure you’re getting enough of this important nutrient. By enjoying all the delicious food choices you can eat on the keto diet, as well as supplementing your diet with iron if necessary, you’ll be able to meet your daily iron goals without much trouble. Tracking your daily iron intake through MyFitnessPal is also a great way to stay on top of things. Now all you have left to do is plan your first high-iron keto meal!

Sources:

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/oral-iron-supplementation

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