Runners want to eat what is good for them and for their performance! Meat is full of iron which helps to keep their energy levels up. It is a building block for numerous enzymes and proteins and plays an essential role in oxygen transport and healthy cell growth. Nearly 60% of the body’s iron is found in hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells). Other areas of the body that contain this mineral including myoglobin (an oxygen-supplying protein in muscles), special enzymes that promote biochemical reactions, and iron-storing proteins. The body’s iron is primarily regulated through the intestine’s absorption of the mineral.
Dietary iron exists in two forms. The first, heme, is derived from hemoglobin and is found in animal foods such as poultry, red meat, and fish. The second, nonheme, is found in plant foods such as beans and lentils. Iron-fortified foods contain nonheme and although this type is less easily digested than heme, most dietary iron is this type. Foods high in heme are chicken liver, oysters, beef, clams, turkey, tuna, chicken breast, halibut, rabbit, crab, pork, and shrimp. Nonheme-rich foods include fortified breakfast cereals, soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, black beans, pinto beans, molasses, tofu, spinach, broccoli, prunes, black-eyed peas, grits, raisins, and wheat bread. It is recommended that the average adult male consume 8 milligrams of iron daily. The average adult female should consume more than twice that amount (18 milligrams daily). If pregnant, an adult female should increase her daily intake to 27 milligrams.
Getting enough iron should be a significant concern, even if one is not suffering from signs of anemia. It is recommended to eat a well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods. Also, increasing one’s consumption of vitamin C will help the body to better absorb iron from food sources. Purposefully mixing and matching iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods will enhance the body’s ability to restore and replenish iron supplies. If iron-rich foods are difficult to come by, it is essential to augment one’s diet with an iron supplement. Those who are concerned about anemia should contact a physician to discuss which supplements and which dosage is best.