Do you know what makes iron is essential? Did you know there are two types of iron? Do you know how to increase its absorption? Is your body getting enough daily? What are the symptoms of a deficiency? Find the answers to all your questions below.
Iron is essential for
- Transporting oxygen around the body
- Our immune function
- Cognitive development
There are two types of iron
- Heme-iron: coming from animal foods and having an absorption rate of 20-30%
- Non-heme iron: coming mostly from plants and having an absorption rate of 2-3%
Some tips to increase absorption
- Consume heme-iron at the same time as non-heme iron to increase non-heme iron absorption
- Consume vitamin C (e.g. citrus fruit, tomato, strawberry, broccoli, kiwi, mango, bell pepper) with non-heme iron to increase its absorption 4 to 6 times
- Avoid consuming large portions of calcium (e.g. dairy foods), tea, coffee and wine at the same time as high-iron foods. They should be consumed 30 minutes before and 2 hours after the meal.
What if I don’t get enough?
Symptoms of iron deficiency include:
- Pale skin
- Rapid/irregular heartbeat
How much iron do I really need?
Due to blood loss during menstruation, women require far more iron than men during their reproductive years. Similarly, during pregnancy, iron requirements increase even further due to increases blood volume and the fetus’ needs. Children and adolescents also have high iron requirements to support their growth.
Unfortunately, you can’t rely on the nutrition label of products because it averages the needs for men and women (14 mg). In other words, it underestimates the needs for women and overestimates the needs for men and children!
Some interesting ways of eating non-heme iron sources
- Thicken stews, soups, sauces and mashed potatoes with baby cereals
- Replace 1/3 of the flour in muffins, pancakes, energy balls, breads and cookies with baby cereals
- Dissolve baby cereals in smoothies
- Sprinkle pumpkin seeds over your salads and soups
- Add pumpkin seeds in your granola, snack mix, energy balls and muffins
- Replace the pine nuts with pumpkin seeds in your favorite pesto
- Spread pumpkin seed butter over bread and crackers
- Add some beans into your pasta salad
- Dissimulate black beans into your fudgy brownies
- Go all in Mexican and enjoy chili, burritos, enchiladas and tacos with beans!
I hope those recommendations will put you on the right track. For personalized recommendations, please contact me!
Earthy Dietitian – @earthy.dietitian