Power Up with Pork: Iron
In this new series, our resident dietitian Vincci Tsui highlights the key nutrients found in pork and their benefits!
Red meat is commonly known to be our best food source of iron, but did you know that pork is red meat too? Despite the American National Pork Board‘s “Pork. The Other White Meat.” campaign (now their slogan is “Pork. Be Inspired.”), pork is technically a red meat and a source of iron – most cuts of pork contain about 1 mg of iron per 75 g (2.5 oz) serving, but offal cuts like tongue and kidney contain about 3 mg per serving, while a serving of pork liver contains a whopping 13 mg!
Why is iron important?
Most of the iron in our bodies is stored in our red blood cells as hemoglobin. Hemoglobin helps to transport the oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. A similar compound called myoglobin is found in our muscles to help with oxygen consumption there. This is why a common symptom of iron deficiency anemia is fatigue, as our bodies become inefficient at getting the oxygen it needs.
How much iron do I need?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adult males is 8 mg, and 18 mg for females. The higher needs for women are due to menstruation. To maximize iron absorption, combine your iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C, like in this Lemon Garlic Brined Pork Chops with Arugula Pesto or these Pork and Roasted Scallions with Tomato Chili Glaze.
What are some examples of iron-rich foods?
There are two types of iron found in food – heme iron, which is found in pork and other meats, is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron, which is found in plant foods like lentils and other legumes, pumpkin seeds and dark leafy greens. Like zinc, offal cuts of any animal, particularly liver and heart, tend to be the highest in iron. If offal makes you squeamish, shellfish is the next best thing, then legumes (though it is non-heme iron) and red meat.