Nigeria is blessed with different dishes from different tribes of the country and our focus will be on Nigerian foods rich in iron. While most of us care little about what the foods we eat comprise, as long as we eat and keep hunger at bay. The nutritional quality of the foods we eat go a long way in determining the health status of different organs of our body and our mental health, as well.
Nigerian foods rich in iron are abundant. We consume some of them daily and we do not know. Elderly ones sometimes recommend some of these foods to pregnant women and people who seem to look pale. The consensus is that you’re short on blood when you look pale. Therefore, foods rich in iron help to increase the volume of blood and makes one look healthier.
In this article, we will explain the reason behind the consumption of these iron-rich foods when one looks pale. We will also help you understand the importance of iron in your diet, pointing out the recommended daily consumption of iron. Ultimately, we will help you with some Nigerian foods that are rich in iron, so as to give you options to choose from when you visit the market.
Importance of Iron
Like many other nutrients, the mineral, iron, is an essential nutrient that is associated to performing many functions in the body. It is so important that it can be argued that it is the most important mineral needed by the body. Why would such assertion be probable? Let’s find out in the importance and roles of Iron in the human body.
The importance of blood in the human body cannot be overemphasized. It is the medium through which nutrients get to the various cells and consequently, helps the body process nutrients into the usable energy form, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).
It is interesting to note that the human blood comprises of 70% iron. Therefore, it is safe to say that when an amount of blood is lost, an enormous amount of iron is lost. The red blood cells have their color due to the presence of iron and their function is only possible due to the same mineral.
Oxygen is the fuel that help to burn the nutrients supplied to the cells of the human body, helping them to release energy that allows us to carry out our daily activities. Oxygen gets into the human system through the nose and to the lungs; however, they cannot be utilized as they cannot be passed into the cells directly from the lungs.
Hemoglobin, otherwise called the red blood cells, are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the cells. They are converted to oxyhemoglobin during the process. Also, the oxygen is received in muscle tissues by Myoglobin.
The interesting part is that both hemoglobin and Myoglobin are made from the mineral, Iron. Therefore, in the absence of iron, oxygen transportation is impossible; therefore, no respiration and no release of energy.
Without iron, it is impossible for the biological process of breaking down nutrients and producing energy, to take place. This is the reason the first and most important symptom of anemia, that is deficiency of iron, is fatigue.
Iron transports oxygen that burns the nutrients that gives ATP. A deficiency of iron means there is inadequate oxygen to carry out the respiration process, and consequently, inadequate energy. Hence, the fatigue.
Recommended Daily Iron Consumption
Considering the importance of iron in the human body, it is expected that humans should consume a certain amount of iron daily. However, the amount of iron needed by humans differ depending on age, health condition, and gender, as energy requirements are not the same.
Children between the ages of 4 to 8 need about 10 milligrams of iron daily while from ages 9 to 13, they need about 8 milligrams of Iron. This is due to the rapid growth in the bodies of the former than the latter.
Females that have begun menstruation need more iron than males of the same age group because they lose iron during menstruation. Therefore, their daily need is placed at 18 milligrams while males are good at the 8 milligrams daily mark.
When menstruation ceases, that is, menopause sets in, the daily iron requirement for females returns to 8 milligrams. Also, during pregnancy, the daily iron requirement increases to meet the woman and the fetus’ need. It is, therefore, better to consult your doctor on how much iron you need during this period.
Nigerian Foods Rich in Iron
Of the numerous food options available for Nigerians to choose from and consume. these are some of the Nigerian foods that are rich in iron and will help them get close to the daily requirement of the mineral.
Plantains are common fruits that resemble bananas, although they are not as palatable as bananas when eaten raw. They are nutritious and have numerous health benefits, including being part of diet plans for managing weight. It is a common food option (when eaten unripe) that helps to minimize the amount sugar in the blood, hence, a good food choice for diabetic patients.
Plantain contains many minerals and vitamins. An important one is iron which is responsible for its usefulness as a food suitable for pregnant women who are managing their weight.
Beans is one of the Nigerian food rich in iron. 100g of beans contains about 5 mg of iron and is considered a staple food in Nigeria. Many homes eat beans more than once in a week, giving them an adequate amount of iron.
Fluted pumpkin (Ugu)
Another Nigerian food rich in iron is ugu. It is a common vegetable that is usually prepared with stew, with or without egusi. It is so rich in iron that it can be blended and mixed with milk to provide an almost instant relief for anyone who has anemia.
Groundnuts are a common sight in Nigeria. As a Nigerian food rich in iron, you can be sure of getting over 4 mg of iron from 100 g of groundnut. There is every chance you will easily consume up to 300g of groundnut as it is a healthy snack, and it can be eaten with other fruits and foods, such as garri, bananas, and egg-plant.
Most Nigerians will stick to consuming red meat, regardless of what their doctors say. Although excessive consumption of red meat, such as beef, is one of the leading causes of cholesterol deposition and bad cardiovascular health in Nigerians, it is a good source of iron.
100 g of red meat will provide 2.7 mg of iron, more than the recommended daily dosage. That is not considering other nutrients it provides.
Millet, popularly called Oka baba in the south western part of Nigeria, is a grain that many depend on to make pottage. It is usually used to prepare pottage for babies that are above 6 months old. However, it can also be consumed by adults. It is also used to make drinks such kunu, that originates from Northern Nigeria.
Millet contains about 8 mg of iron, an outstandingly high figure, more than enough to cater to anyone’s daily iron requirement.
Soy bean is a legume is one of the Nigerian foods that contain high amount of iron. Soybean and foods that are its derivatives share the same amount of iron content. Soybean has about 8.8 mg of iron in 100 g of its seeds.
Spinach is another vegetable that is rich in iron. It is common in the southwestern part of Nigeria and contains 2.7 mg of iron in 100g of the vegetable. It is usually eaten with swallow such as semo, wheat, or eba.
Iron is one of the important minerals the body requires to carry out its functions. It makes up about 70% of the blood and is found in the red blood cells and hemoglobin, and in muscle tissues as myoglobin. It directly influences the energy production process in the body.
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