Iron is an essential mineral that serves important functions in our body. For instance, it helps to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Iron is the chief component of hemoglobin, the prime protein in red blood cells, responsible for transporting oxygen through the body (1).
Importance of Iron in Diet
Iron is also bound to myoglobin, a protein found in cardiac and skeletal muscle, and serves as intracellular oxygen storage for muscles (2).
Iron is extremely important for proper growth, nourishment, and body development (3). It is used to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body.
A deficiency in iron levels can result in reduced energy levels, a weak immune system, poor cognitive functions, and decreased athletic performance (4).
Heme vs. Non-heme Iron
Everyone must consume enough iron in their diet to maintain healthy body functions. Iron comes in two forms in food, heme and non-heme.
The body can readily absorb heme iron compared to non-heme, so it is recommended to consume foods containing heme iron in excess, like seafood, poultry, and meat.
Several food items can play a role in increasing or decreasing the amount of iron absorbed. For example, vitamin C can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron, and calcium can inhibit its absorption (7).
If a person fails to consume sufficient iron, it can lead to the development of iron deficiency anemia (8). This condition is usually unnoticeable initially, but the symptoms gradually intensify until the anemia worsens.
Common signs of iron deficiency anemia are extreme fatigue and weakness, dizziness, cold hands, shortness of breath, pale skin, etc.
It is best to consult a doctor who can run diagnostic tests and recommend a suitable iron supplement that will provide adequate but not excessive iron to the body.
Iron is constantly being lost from the body, and to replace it, plenty of healthy foods are available which are high in iron (9).
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable which means it contains non-heme iron. A 100 grams quantity of raw spinach contains about 3 mg of iron, but spinach also contains a high amount of vitamin C, which boosts iron absorption (10).
Spinach can be eaten in creative ways.
You can cook it with your breakfast eggs, blend it into a milkshake, stir into soups or swap it with lettuce in your salads. This food is rich in antioxidants, mainly carotenoids, which reduce the risk of cancer, inflammation, and eye diseases.
Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are some of the common types of legumes. Legumes are also an excellent iron source, as almost 200 grams of cooked lentils contain about 6 mg of iron (11).
Legumes also reduce the risk of diabetes and heart diseases and are high in dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and folate. In particular, they are a wonderful source of iron for strict vegetarians.
3. Red Meat
People who regularly eat red meat, fish, or poultry do not suffer from iron deficiency. Red meat is a nutritious and accessible source of heme iron, the iron easily absorbed by the body. 100 grams of ground beef contains about 2.7 mg of iron (12).
Red meat is rich in heme iron, which is retained better in the body than iron supplements. It is also the main source of zinc, protein, selenium, and vitamin B.
4. Organ Meats Like Liver
Organ meats are famous among food lovers, and people love to eat kidneys, heart, brain, and liver, all of which are great sources of iron, protein, selenium, vitamin A, choline, and vitamin B.
A 100-gram serving of organ meat contains 6 mg of iron, proving an impressive serving of heme iron that is easily absorbed in the body.
Seafood as One of the Richest Sources of Iron
Although animal-based food sources like red meat and poultry are rich in heme iron, the kind readily absorbed in the body, seafood is the supreme source of heme iron, which is also low in calories and contains healthy fats.
Mollusks like oysters, mussels, and octopus contain higher amounts of iron than other types of seafood.
Other fish, like sardines, are also excellent sources of iron, and shellfish, including shrimps and crabs, supply almost 3 mg of iron in a serving (13).
Is Shrimp a High-Iron Food?
Seafood like shrimp, high in iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, and omega fats, are delicious foods added to salads or chowders. They can also be combined with lemon juice, Greek yogurt, or mustard and used in sandwiches.
While we consider shrimp a high-iron food, it doesn’t contain an excessive amount of iron compared to other seafood like tuna.
We can eat shrimp to get additional iron in our diet, but we cannot rely on this seafood to singularly get us close to our daily requirements of iron.
Shrimps are usually cooked along with foods containing vitamin C, like lemons, oranges, and tomatoes.
Seafood lovers usually combine shrimps and prawns with lemon juice or cook them in a sweet and sour tomato sauce, which tends to increase the absorption of iron in these foods.
Does Shrimp Help With Iron Deficiency Anemia?
When we appraise shrimp, high in heme iron seafood, we ponder whether shrimp is good for iron deficiency. The heme iron found in shellfish, including shrimps, crabs, and prawns, is more absorbable in the body than non-heme iron-containing foods, including nuts, beans, squash seeds, etc.
Shrimps can supply between 0.5 mg of iron in a single serving of 100 grams (14).
While this quantity of iron only contributes approximately 20% of the total iron requirements for men and women, it is impossible to base your diet around this type of seafood and expect it to fulfill the daily iron requirements of the body.
A 3-ounce serving of shrimp includes about 3 large shrimps, and even if a person manages to eat that many shrimp in one sitting, it will only supply almost 0.5 mg of iron.
Shrimp can help people with iron deficiency anemia, as these people are recommended to consume a diet full of iron, vitamin B, and vitamin C.
While anemia is also treated with supplementary iron, we can take help from natural foods like shrimp, which are good for anemia and increasing the heme iron levels in the body.
Recommended Iron Intake per Day
The National Institutes of Health recommends dietary supplements according to your body’s requirements (15). Women need almost 18 mg of iron per day when they are over 19 and under 50 years of age, and when they reach menopause, the daily iron intake requirements reduce to 8 mg per day.
The multivitamin supplements for men include minimal quantities of iron, as they only require 8 mg daily.
Shrimp are delicious foods that can be cooked in various ways, like making sandwiches and patties, and served alongside rice.
Do Frying and Boiling Affect Iron Quantities in Shrimp?
Different cooking methods like boiling, frying, and grilling melt and run the fat and reduce several key nutrients in foods.
Water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B, fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K, and minerals like potassium, sodium, and calcium are reduced by cooking.
Does Boiled Shrimp Have a High Iron Quantity?
Foods containing vitamin C lose a great amount of this water-soluble vitamin when cooked using water-based methods like boiling and simmering.
Similarly, the boiling process significantly loses vitamin B and other minerals. Still, if the juices in which the meat is cooked are consumed, it retains 100% of these minerals, including iron. Boiling a fish also preserves its omega-3 fatty acids more than frying.
The total iron amounts decreased after cooking fish or shrimp using boiling methods can go up to 52.28%, which doesn’t make boiled shrimp high in iron.
Does Fried Shrimp Have a High Iron Quantity?
Frying is a popular way of preparing delicious food dishes, and if the coating of the meat is kept intact, it acts as a barrier to keep the meat inside moist.
However, frying a fish can destroy the omega-3 fatty acids but preserves the amount of vitamins and minerals in the food more than the boiling method.
Different cooking methods do not affect the total amount of iron in shrimps, but it is important to consider their effects on other meats like lamb and beef (16).
The Bottom Line
Combining iron-rich seafood like shrimps with vegetables containing iron can offer you the required amount of dietary iron necessary for the proper functioning of your body.
Even though the body absorbs the non-heme iron in plants in a much lesser quantity than heme iron in seafood, their combined iron supplementation will be enough to provide the required daily intake of iron.
Is Shrimp High in Heme Iron?
Shrimps contain a fair amount of iron, but not as much as other seafood. Cooked shrimp supplies an even lesser amount of heme-iron than raw shrimps contain.
Can I Only Eat Shrimp to Get a Daily Supply of Iron?
No, shrimp doesn’t contain enough iron that can fulfill your daily iron requirements. On top of that, it is necessary to consume shrimps with a source of vitamin C like lemon or tomatoes so that the vitamin can help in better absorption of iron.
What Are Other Seafoods High in Iron?
Mussels, oysters, and clams have the highest iron of all seafood. Clams take the first spot for supplying most iron in a three-ounce serving.