IRON...The what, why, where, when, who & how...🩸
Have you ever been diagnosed with low iron in your health history? Do you know much about the role and importance of iron in the body? If not, you have come to the right place, as this blog aims to educate you further AND if you are aware of iron and its importance, then I hope that you find this in line with your current knowledge and level of awareness.
Iron is a very unique mineral, whereby it is tightly regulated by the body, with absorption increasing when stores are low and then less absorption occurring when stores are adequate.
This balance occurs so iron is not easily excreted, as it plays a very important and major role in our bodies.
Here is the way, why, where, when who and how or IRON...
WHAT - Iron is a mineral that the body requires for growth & development. Our bodies use iron to make Hemoglobin- a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body
WHY - Iron is essential, it is extremely important for:
- Optimal immune function
- Enzymes involved in energy production feature iron as part of them.
- Storing oxygen in our muscles.
WHERE - Iron occurs in two forms in foods:
The first is haem iron, which is found only in foods derived from the flesh of animals, such as meats, poultry and fish. This form is most easily absorbed by the body.
The second form is non-haem iron, which is found in both plants and animal-derived foods.
HEAM SOURCES - Beef, lamb, kangaroo, chicken, fish.
- Oysters, clams, mussels, canned sardines, tuna, eggs.
- Offal - liver & kidney. ** high intakes not recommended for pregnant women**
NON-HAEM SOURCES- Fortified breakfast cereals, bread & pasta.
- Wholegrains and legumes (beans and lentils)
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, raisins, nuts, prunes, dried apricots, seeds, dried beans and peas.
WHEN - to see a GP if you or your child presents with the following symptoms.
- Lack of concentration
- Pale skin
- Reduced immune function
- Increased risk of infection
- Behavioural problems
- Repeated infections
- Loss of appetite
- Failure to grow
- Increased sweating
Those at risk of iron deficiency: -
- Women in reproductive years.
- Menstruating women
- Babies & young children
- Pregnant women
- Lactating women
- Vegetarians & vegans
- The Elderly Population
- Regular blood donors
- Those with disordered eating habits & eating disorders.
- Those with chronic & Autoimmune diseases (coeliac).
- Those who have conditions that predispose them to bleed (stomach ulcers etc.)
WHO - Recommended Dietary intake (RDI) across the lifespan.
Boys 14 - 18 years
Girls 14 - 18 years
Men 19 +
8mg / day
Women 19-50 years
Lactating 14-18 years
Lactating 19+ years
To ensure adequate iron intake - Ensure to include iron-rich sources into your diet.
- Consume foods rich in vitamin C along with your non-haem iron sources.
- Include heam & non-haem sources in meals to increase the amount of iron absorbed. i.e. beef & beans (think Mexican burritos).
- If vegetarian or vegan consider a variety of non-haem sources of iron in meals.
- Cook plant sources of iron (vegetables), cooking can increase the amount of available non-haem iron in them.
**For your knowledge - Certain foods & drinks can bind with non-haem iron sources, reducing its absorption. These include phytate which is found in legumes, whole grains, bran & seeds., soybeans, other legumes & nuts can also reduce iron absorption & polyphenols found in tea and coffee.
Calcium has also been considered an inhibitor of both haem and non-haem iron absorption. Something to be mindful of, no need to remove these foods from your diet! If you have iron deficiency anemia considering these foods becomes more of a focus and you may consider consuming them away from your iron sources and supplements.
- If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency you may require supplementation, which should only be prescribed after blood tests from your GP.
- Supplementation should only occur under the guidance of your GP. DO NOT self-diagnose, as too much Iron can be harmful.
- If supplementing - research suggests taking your iron supplements on an empty stomach, between meals or at bedtime ( if applicable) with liquids other than milk, tea or coffee which can reduce absorption.
- You may find stools change to be darker or black in colour.
Have you found this helpful? Hit reply and let me know. I would love to hear from you.
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