The Reason Your Mama Told You to Eat Your Spinach

When we were little the adults around us always said, “Eat your spinach.” I remember watching Popeye the Sailor Man and believing that cracking open a jar of spinach would  give me super strength. Iron is that magic ingredient inside of spinach that gives you the ability to beat up that bad guy or just power through your morning workout. I’m going to give you a quick run down of  what dietary iron is, why it’s important, what happens when you are deficient, and the best food for increasing your iron intake.

tired woman Dietary iron is considered an essential mineral for our bodies. It is a necessary component in the production of blood cells and is responsible for our blood’s red color. Iron is used to make the oxygen-carrying proteins, hemoglobin, and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is made up of 4 protein molecules called globulin chains. Hemoglobin allows red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and return with carbon dioxide. Myoglobin is found in our heart and skeletal muscles. This protein stores oxygen for strenuous activities like exercise or beating up that bad guy. Myoglobin also accelerates the diffusion of oxygen to the muscles, a.k.a improves your performance during a workout.

A deficiency of iron in the body is called anemia and it’s very common. Suffering from a lack of iron means your body can’t make hemoglobin. Therefore, oxygen can’t  be carried throughout the body to the muscles. The people most at risk for anemia are menstruating and pregnant women, those with a diet lacking in nutrients, and vegetarians that haven’t learned to balance their diet without meat based iron. Common symptoms of anemia  are fatigue, dizziness, feeling weak, shortness of breath, swollen tongue, irregular heartbeat. Some more serious symptoms can be pica and restless leg syndrome.

raw-oysters“According to the National Academy of Sciences, the Recommended Dietary Allowances of iron for women ages 19 to 50 is 18 milligrams per day and for men ages 19+, 8 milligrams per day,” ( The best way to maintain a healthy amount of iron in your system is your diet. Red meats, tuna, eggs, and oysters are very high in iron. If you’re not a meat-eater or just want to cut back try oatmeal, spinach (duh!), chickpeas, and beans. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron more easily, so pair iron-rich foods with bell peppers, tomatoes, or other foods high in this vitamin.

I told you this would be quick. I hope you learned something new. If you did be sure to share this information with a friend.


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