You know that you need to make sure that get enough iron in your diet, but do you actually know why?
Iron does many things in our bodies but mainly it carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. Iron also helps our muscles store and use oxygen. Too little iron in the body will result in iron deficiency and eventually anemia. The terms anemia and iron deficiency, are often used interchangeably but there is a difference. Iron deficiency refers to depleted iron stores without functional or health impairment, anemia, being more serious, affects the functioning of several organ systems.
How do you know if you’re iron deficient? — It’s pretty clear. Do you feel tired all the time, dizzy; get headaches, or leg pains? These are a sampling of the symptoms, and are especially common in women and intense exercisers.
So, how much iron do you need? — Premenopausal women need 18 milligrams of iron daily and men require 10.
Think you need more iron? — First you need to understand that there are two kinds of iron. Heme and non-heme iron. Heme comes from blood or meat and non-heme comes from plant sources. When consuming iron from non-heme sources you’ll need to help your body absorb the iron by also eating Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body absorb the non-heme iron foods you eat, especially when the food containing non-heme iron and the vitamin-C rich food are eaten at the same meal.
Here’s where you can find the best sources of iron — If you opt for the heme form of iron, go for animal products such as liver, clams, salmon, oysters, and sardines. A nice steak will work too. Good non-heme sources are: oats, soybeans, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, spinach, eggs, black currants, fish, dried fruits (figs, apricots), nuts, fortified breakfast cereals, chocolates, tofu; almonds, avocados, beets, dates, kidney and lima beans, lentils, peaches, pears, brown rice and wheat bran, and sesame seeds.
Fun fact — Cooking in a cast iron skillet increases the iron content in food. The longer the food is in contact with the skillet, the more it absorbs.
Just for fun pay attention to your iron intake for a few days and see how you measure up. I’ll bet you aren’t getting enough. Figure it out and prove me wrong! Here’s a chart to help you calculate.
P.s. You do realize that I am not a doctor, right? I just research things that interest me and then share the broken down, nuts and bolts version with you. If you think you have a health problem of any sort it’s important that you contact your healthcare provider.