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Iron Content in Fast Foods

By Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.

Iron is a mineral the body requires to help make proteins found in red blood cells and muscles. According to Medline Plus, about 3 percent of men, 20 percent of women and 50 percent of pregnant women don’t have enough iron in their bodies. Consuming certain types of fast foods can help you meet your daily iron requirements.

Background

Different types of iron exist. Heme iron is the type of iron that is best absorbed by the body, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Animal-based foods are sources of heme iron. Non-heme iron is more poorly absorbed in the body and is found in iron-enriched and plant-based foods. The recommended dietary allowance or RDA for iron in adults is 8 mg per day for men and women older than 50, 18 mg for other adult women, 27 mg for pregnant women and 9 mg per day for lactating women. If you eat fast food on a regular basis, include some iron-rich choices in your diet to help reach your daily iron requirements. Check fast food websites to view the nutrition content of your favorite foods.

Hamburgers

Most fast food restaurants offer hamburgers on their menu. Although some types of fast food burgers are high in fat and calories, they are also excellent sources of iron. Three ounces of lean beef provides about 3 mg of heme iron.

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Chicken or Fish

Many fast food restaurants offer grilled or breaded chicken or fish sandwiches as part of their menu. A grilled chicken or fish sandwich is a healthy low-calorie choice if you order it without the mayonnaise or tartar sauce. Three ounces of chicken or fish provides about 1 g of heme iron.

Non-heme Sources

Some fast foods restaurants offer foods that contain non-heme iron. Such foods may include enriched breakfast cereal, oatmeal and legumes such as black or pinto beans, commonly found at Mexican fast-food restaurants.

Low-iron Foods

Foods you may find at fast food restaurants that provide little or no iron include French fries, potatoes and dairy products such as milk and yogurt. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, calcium found in dairy products may inhibit non-heme iron absorption.

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