Why is iron important?
Iron is an essential mineral, it is found primarily in the red blood cells , Haemoglobin, a protein, which is required to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide around our bodies in exchange for giving us energy!Iron is also found in our muscle cells as protein called Myoglobin. Aside from oxygen transport, iron is required to make up a variety of important proteins and enzymes in the body. It is important for energy production, and is a part of several antioxidants as well as being crucial for DNA production. Due to Iron creating energy for our bodies it is quite common to have symptoms of iron deficiency in the form of fatigue, tiredness and lethargy due to Anaemia.
The loss of Iron is minimal in an average every day person however, bleeding accounts for the most loss of iron resulting in extra demands during periods of growth, menstruation and pregnancy and during post-partum bleeding. The body’s needs regulates how much of iron is absorbed , but is only likely to be 10- 20% of the iron in the diet. In terms of the iron content different foods give, there is no true value of which is absorbed as some is unavailable.
The availability of iron in a vegetarian diet is 10% compared to 18% in mixed diets, so vegetarians and vegans will require extra iron in their diet.
In addition, absorption of iron is dependable on how it is eaten.Below are ways to assist absorption of iron into the body: • Vitamin C – adding in Vitamin C rich foods such as spinach, kiwi fruit, Berries, Broccoli, Sprouts, Red, Yellow & Green Capsicum, and oranges help to improve absorption of iron into the body significantly.• Acids – citric, lactic, tartaric etc. all enhance the absorption of iron. • Meat – iron from meat and poultry enhances absorption. • Polyphenols – found in some fruits and vegetables as well as spices, wines and tea/coffee. • Soy proteins – found in tofu and similar products.
* Coffee, tea and wine – Keep your iron rich foods separate from your coffee, tea and wine. * Absorption of iron can be interfered by phytic acid and phosphates – these are found in legumes and grains, including rice.
Who is at risk of iron deficiency Iron deficiency is extremely common and is a widespread nutritional disorder! 1 in 3 Australian women don’t get near the recommended amount of iron in their diets. Women unfortuantly fall into a higher risk catergory than men purely due to a higher iron loss during our monthy menstrual cycle. For our beloved pregnant women they fall even more at risk because after all you are growing a mini you in there! Other high risk categories:
- babies given cow’s or other milk instead of breastmilk or infant formula
- toddlers, particularly if they drink too much cow’s milk
- teenage girls
- menstruating women, especially those who have heavy periods
- women using an IUD (because they generally have heavier periods), pregnant or breastfeeding women
- people with poor diets such as alcoholics, ‘fad dieters’ or people with eating disorders
- vegetarians or vegans
- athletes in training
- people with intestinal worms
- Aboriginal Australians
- regular blood donors
- people with conditions that predispose them to bleeding, such as gum disease or stomach ulcers, polyps or cancers of the bowel
- people with chronic diseases such as cancer, auto-immune diseases, heart failure or renal (kidney) disease
- people taking aspirin as a regular medication
- people who have a lower than normal ability to absorb or use iron, such as someone with coeliac disease.
Source: Better Health Channel
Iron Requirements: Women – 18mg/day Pregnant women – 27mg/day Lactating women – 9mg/day Men & post-menopausal (51+) – 8mg/day Infants 7-12 months – 11mg/day Children 1-3 years old – 9mg/day Children 4–8 years old – 10 mg/day Children 9–13 years – 8 mg/day Boys 14–18 years old – 11 mg/day Girls 14-18 years old – 15mg/day.
Iron deficiency symptoms As spoken about above when we fall deficient in iron signs such as lethargy, tiredness & fatigue along with poor concentration, irritability & moodiness, pale skin, and lowered immune system resulting in getting sick more often.
If you believe you have more than one of these symptoms it is best advised to visit your local health practitioner and discuss this with them.
Anaemia It is vital to get on top of your iron as prolonged iron deficiency can turn into Anaemia. There are many causes for Anaemia however Iron deficiency is the most common.
Iron rich plant foods
- Legumes, such as soy beans, tofu and tempeh, beans, lentils and chickpeas
- Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens and broccoli
- Dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, peaches and pears
- Grains such as oats, quinoa, wholegrain pasta and bread
- Pumpkin seeds, cashews and almonds ⠀
- if you eat these: oysters and mussels are also great sources!⠀
Soaking and CookingPhytates bind to iron which prevent absorption. You can reduce this by soaking and cooking grains and veggies to break down some of the phytates & fibres in order to get the most iron out of your foods.
Supplementing your iron I am all for getting as much nutrients from their natural state of food, however i do acknowledge that supplementation is required in specific cases. Due to being a young female who is frequently exercising and eating a plant based diet, i fall into a higher risk category.I find getting regular blood tests to check my B12 and iron helps keep me on top of things and in tune with my bodies requirements. This is a very good tip for anyone wanting to take control of their health and invest in to their healht. Preventative measures taken are super important when it comes to health!There are many supplements on the market and it is extremely important to have a discussion with your health practitioner to find out the best supplement for your specific needs as you do not want to create a harmful iron overload or toxicity in your body.
Iron Overload/ToxicityExcess iron in the body can be highly toxic. This toxicity can lead to a variety of serious diseases such as liver disease, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hormonal abnormalities, dysfunctional immune system. Therefor, it is incredibly important to stay within your daily recommended amount.
I hope you enjoyed this post and got a lot out of it!