What do you know about Iron, an essential mineral for our physical wellbeing?
- Iron is an important mineral found in our blood important for transporting oxygen around our bodies, to keep us feeling energetic and ensuring a healthy immune system
- Men, women, children and adults all require different amounts of iron every day
- Iron can be difficult to obtain in food and therefore it is very common to be deficient in iron
- If you aren’t obtaining enough iron from your food you might be feeling tired, anxious, irritated, have a hard time concentrating, suffer from low energy and poor resistance to infections.
Our body needs iron from external sources, it cannot manufacture any on its own. Iron deficiency is the world’s most common cause of anemia. Make sure you are getting enough!
So where do we obtain iron in our diet?
There are two types of iron, and they come from different food sources.
- Heme iron – this iron is absorbed well by your body. You can find it in foods like red meat, poultry, seafood, offal (e.g. kidneys, liver) – generally foods that are derived from animals.
- Non-heme iron – this iron can be found in legumes, whole grain breads and cereals, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and eggs.
Even though the amount of iron found in plant based foods might be similar to that found in animal products, it is not absorbed as well in the body. For comparison: 15-35% of heme iron is absorbed by our digestive system, while only 2-20% of non-heme iron is absorbed.
There are additional factors that can inhibit or enhance the absorption of non-heme iron:
- Tea and coffee contain natural compounds such as caffeine and tannins that can inhibit non-heme iron absorption.
- Vitamin C, on the other hand, can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron.
Here are some tips to increase the absorption of non-heme iron:
- add bell pepper, cabbage and bean sprouts to soups, stir fries and salad
- consume fruit based desserts after meals
- add fresh berries on top of wholemeal pancakes
- squeeze a lemon on your fish dish
- occasionally drink a small glass ( 4 fl oz) of 100% fruit juice with meals