Oatmeal is a good dietary source of iron. A serving provides about 1.6 g of iron, or 9% of the recommended daily intake.
Health benefits of iron
Iron is necessary for good health. It’s a key component of hemoglobin, which is a protein of red blood cells that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.
Additionally, iron supports muscle metabolism and healthy connective tissue. Also, it’s crucial for energy metabolism, cellular functioning, physical growth, neurological development, and the synthesis of some hormones, amino acids, and collagen.[1,2]
But, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide! It may lead to serious side effects, such as gastrointestinal disturbances, impaired cognition, weakened immune function, fatigue, and low body temperature. Moreover, iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of premature delivery, and miscarriage.
How much iron do we need a day?
The recommended daily intake of iron is 18 mg for women and 8 mg for men. Women require much higher doses due to menstruation period.
Pregnant women require much higher dosages of 27 mg a day.
In contrast, women older than 51 years require only 8 mg of iron a day.
It may be tricky for women of reproductive age to get the recommended iron intake from food alone. They may benefit from taking a dietary supplement. You’ll find a wide variety of iron supplements on iHerb.
How much iron is in oatmeal?
Oatmeal has a moderate iron content. Dry oats have 4.25 mg of iron per 100g or 3.4 mg per cup.
Instant oatmeal contains about 0.7 mg of iron per 100g, or 1.6 g per a typical 1-cup serving.
Moreover, certain brands enrich oats with minerals like iron and zinc, and even B vitamins. Fortified instant oatmeal contains up to 4.7 mg of iron per 100g, or 11.2 mg of iron per serving!
Therefore, regular oatmeal provides about 9% of the recommended daily intake of iron per serving, while enriched instant oatmeal provides up to 62%.
Last, but not least, the iron content of oatmeal is the same, no matter what you make it with water, milk, or any plant-based milk. Both cow’s milk and plant-based milks are naturally poor in iron. Only fortified milks may contain decent amounts of iron.
Can oatmeal boost iron intake?
Although oatmeal can help us meet the recommended daily intake of iron, we shouldn’t depend on it to meet our daily needs.
Oatmeal is high in phytate. Phytate is beneficial for health. This substance may help lower blood glucose and lipids levels. Also, it seems to have antioxidant and even anticancer properties.
On the other hand, phytate is also known as an anti-nutrient. It inhibits the absorption of non-heme iron as well as other minerals like zinc.
So, you better avoid eating oatmeal with other foods high in iron.
Common foods high in iron
Common foods high in iron are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, whole cereals, legumes, beans, as well as certain fruits and vegetables.
In fact, one super iron-rich meal is an oats egg omelet with tofu or beans. It’s also excellent for weight loss.
Spinach has a good iron content as well. A serving provides 17% of the recommended daily intake!
In addition, we could boost our daily iron intake by drinking certain fruit juices!
Should we eat oatmeal every day?
Most people would benefit from the daily consumption of oatmeal. Oatmeal is high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Besides iron, oatmeal contains decent amounts of vitamin E, folates, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, carotenoids, betaine, and choline.
Oatmeal is ideal for breakfast. You’ll get significantly more fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, as compared to other popular breakfasts or having no breakfast at all.
Among others, oatmeal provides steady levels of energy for hours.
Even people with diabetes can consume small amounts, despite its high carbohydrate content. In fact, oatmeal consumption may have a beneficial effect on glucose and lipid profiles in patients with type 2 diabetes! In addition, oatmeal may protect from chronic inflammation of arteries and atherosclerosis. So, it’s good for the heart.
You could sprinkle some cinnamon on top of your oatmeal. Cinnamon prevents blood sugar spikes and has potent antioxidant properties.
Most noteworthy, it’s among the richest foods in beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber. It has great health benefits. For instance, beta-glucan may lower high cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.
Last, but not least, oats are gluten-free. But, as there is the danger of cross-contamination, people who follow a strict gluten-free diet (e.g. celiac disease) should buy only oats labelled as gluten-free.
You’ll find a wide variety of oatmeal brands on Amazon.
Always consult your physician before changing your diet.