Iron – Why You Need It and How to Get It

Iron is one of the most essential nutrients needed by our body to function at its best. It is also a nutrient that is very quickly and frequently lost by our body. It is lost during sweating, shedding of intestinal cells and menstruation. Hence, it is very important to make sure that our body has sufficient iron at all times.

Why Do We Need It?

Iron plays a very important role in forming the protein in hemoglobin, and hemoglobin is responsible for oxygen circulation to all parts of the body. It is also critical for an effective immune system that is responsible for fighting infection. It is an important component of the red blood cells too. Also, lack of iron can make one vulnerable to colds and other illnesses. Iron deficiency is also associated with lack of energy. In fact, iron deficiency is among the most common nutritional deficiencies across the globe. Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency include:

  • Pale skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of focus or concentration problems
  • Poor immune system resulting in higher infection risks

How to Get It?

The good news is that there are a lot of ways to fulfill the iron needs of our body and increase the levels of iron in it. Here are some that will help you increase iron levels in your body:

Increase Heme Iron and Non-Heme Iron Intake

Heme iron is the one that is needed by our body and is related to hemoglobin. It is also more efficiently absorbed. It is found in animal sources, and mainly in seafood, fish and meat. Increasing the intake of these foods will greatly help in stabilizing the iron levels in the body if you are suffering deficient of it. Beef liver, oysters and chicken liver are rich in iron. If you are a vegetarian, do not worry. You can still fulfill your iron needs through many non-animal sources.

Non-heme iron is not readily absorbed by our bodies and is found in non-animal sources. Hence, it takes greater amount of food and longer durations to meet iron needs through non-animal sources. Non-heme iron is abundantly found in leafy green vegetables and legumes. Hence, pumpkin seeds, tofu, lentils, spinach and beans are some non-animal foods rich in iron.


Avoid Foods That Hinders With Iron Absorption

When you are consuming iron rich food, make sure that you do not mix it those foods that negatively affect iron absorption in our bodies. For example, oxalic acids in many vegetables, even though are healthy, hinders iron absorption as they bind with iron in the intestine. Phytic acid in grains also does the same. Hence, it is best to have a gap of few hours between consuming iron rich food and others that affects its absorption. Note that completely eliminating this food is not an option.

Vitamin C

While there are foods that hinder iron absorption, there are also foods that facilitate iron absorption. One such example is vitamin C. Hence, combining your iron rich food with orange juice greatly improves iron absorption in our bodies.

The above are a great way to make sure that fulfill iron needs. It is important to keep a tab of this as deficiency of iron in the long-term can have long lasting negative effects on your health.

H/T: Health Ambition

Photo Credit: Harvard Health Publications, Health Ambition

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