Iron is an essential mineral that helps maintain many vital functions in the body. This includes the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Consuming enough iron is important. Without it, your body will struggle to produce enough healthy red blood cells. Iron levels impact many aspects of your health, including:
Dietary iron comes in two forms - heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only found in animal proteins such as meat, poultry, and seafood. Heme iron is more easily absorbed into the body and is thus a significant source of dietary iron for many.
By contrast, non-heme iron is present in plant-based foods such as grains, beans, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It is also present in dairy and eggs. The body processes non-heme iron differently and has to alter non-heme iron to absorb it fully. This means that a lower percentage of non-heme iron is absorbed.
Ideally, there is a healthy balance between the supply of iron through the diet and the body’s demand for iron. However, if demand outweighs supply, the body starts to use up iron stored in the liver, which can lead to iron deficiency. When the body has used the iron up, it cannot produce more hemoglobin. This condition is called iron deficiency anemia.
Iron deficiency is very common. Symptoms of iron deficiency include:
Certain demographics are more likely to deal with iron deficiency than others.
If you fit into one of these categories, or if you are generally concerned about your iron levels, do not fret. There are simple steps you can take to increase your iron absorption and ensure you are feeling your best.
Ultimately, it is important to consume foods that contain iron, as your body does not produce the nutrient on its own. Add these iron-rich foods into your diet to prevent/treat iron deficiency:
Vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron. Including a source of Vitamin C, like broccoli, with your iron-rich meal will help maintain iron levels. Beta carotene, which is found in brightly colored produce like peppers, carrots, and apricots, can also boost absorption.
You should also examine your diet for foods and drinks that can lower iron levels, including coffee, tea, many sodas, alcohol and some dairy products.
Identifying the causes of iron deficiency is the first line of defense. From there, increasing the iron consumption in your daily diet is an important next step.
Depending on your iron levels and diet, supplements may also be necessary, but it’s important to work with a healthcare practitioner. Too much iron can be harmful to your health, so you need to find the right levels for you. keeping in mind that your body is unable to rid itself of excess iron. As well, many people find iron supplements can lead to an upset stomach and constipation, so you may have to make dietary changes at the same time.
Iron deficiency can cause serious complications for your health if left untreated, so it is important to get a proper assessment of your iron levels and create a treatment plan to help raise them. Let us know if you need help addressing iron deficiency - we’re here to help!
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U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food data central
Carmen Lúcia de Almeida SantosI, II; Marco AkermanIII; Odival FaccendaIV; Lourdes Conceição MartinsV; Lígia de Fátima Nóbrega Reato,, Iron defici, 2012/01/01
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