Why iron is important:
Iron is an essential mineral whose primary function is to transport oxygen in the blood. If young girls and teenage girls don’t get enough, this could potentially lead to iron deficiency anemia, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, and other symptoms.
How much is recommended?
Young girls ages 9–13 need 8 mg per day. From the ages of 14–18, the recommended amount increases to 15 mg per day.
Food sources of iron:
Iron is found naturally in many foods and is added to some fortified food products. You can get recommended amounts of iron by eating a variety of foods, including the following:
- Lean meat, seafood, and poultry
- Iron-fortified breakfast cereals and breads
- White beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, and peas
- Nuts and some dried fruits, such as raisins
Iron in food comes in two forms: heme iron and nonheme iron. The heme iron, predominantly found in meat or seafood, is more absorbable than the nonheme iron found in plant foods and iron-fortified food products. Combining the two at one meal helps, as does consuming iron with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus. Separate iron-rich foods from those high in calcium, such as milk and cheese; the two minerals compete for absorption.
Iron up your diet:
- Look at the big picture: The best way to ensure you are getting enough iron is to eat a well-balanced diet—one that includes breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products.
- Check out the food label: Look for breads and cereals that contain 20% or more of the Daily Value (DV) for iron.
- Make your own trail mix with cereal, nuts, and raisins.
- Add beans to soups, stews, salads, and casseroles.
- Winning combination: Have fortified cereal (iron), such as oatmeal, with orange juice or strawberries (vitamin C).