What are the good sources of iron?
Iron is one of the most abundant elements in earth’s crust. Iron is an essential mineral your body needs to function well. It has the legacy as a constituent of hemoglobin and is virtually utilized by all living cells. Thus, it is vitally important to consume adequate amounts of it in your daily diet.
Few functions of iron are as follows:
• Oxygen support: It is interesting to know the foods you eat influence not only the amount of iron consumed but also how well it is absorbed in the body. Once the iron is absorbed in the body, it is used as a building block for hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that helps to the movement of oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also a component of myoglobin, an oxygen storage protein found in muscles. This oxygen is used when using the muscles.
• Energy metabolism: Iron takes active part in the release of energy in the body.
• Brain functions: Iron is required for the formation of myelin sheath around the nerve fibres and synthesis of neurotransmitters, which are necessary for optimal functioning of the brain.
• Component of enzymes: There are many iron containing enzymes which play significant roles in functions necessary for synthesis of RN, DN and steroid hormones. It is also a part of several enzymes that are involved in metabolism of many nutrients such as niacin, serotonin and melatonin.
The recommended intake of iron is 7-18 mg per day for every individual and this requirement increases during pregnancy.
What are the sources of iron?
Both plant and animal foods are good sources of iron, but both contain two different types of iron which significantly affects utility of iron in the body. These two types of iron are:
• Heme iron: found in animal foods except dairy products and are better absorbed
• Non-heme iron: found in plant foods like green leafy vegetables, legumes, and wholegrains. This type of iron is poorly absorbed in the body on its own, but the addition of vitamin C can enhance its absorption.
In general animal products like chicken, pork, beef, fish such as halibut, salmon, tuna and eggs are excellent source of iron. Particularly red meats and organ meats like liver are good sources. Green leafy vegetables, beans, peaches, apricots, dates, and raisins are also good source of iron. However, combining these plant foods with vitamin C foods such as lemon, guava, or orange enhances its absorption.
It is worth knowing that milk and milk products are poor sources of iron. Foods are also fortified with iron to increase its consumption, for example - common salt is fortified with iron to deal with the concern of iron deficiency anemia. You can try Tata Salt Plus which contains iron and iodine to increase your iron intake.
Understanding iron deficiency
Iron deficiency is widely prevalent affecting billions of people worldwide. Children and pregnant women are most affected. Iron deficiency occurs due to several reasons such as:
• Low intake of iron rich foods
• Low intake of vitamin C rich foods along with food containing non-heme iron
• High intake of plant foods containing phytates, oxalates which inhibit iron absorption
• High intake of tea and coffee
• Poor absorption of iron in the intestine
• Low immunity
• Blood loss during an accident, surgery or donation of blood
• Loss of blood during menstruation or at the time of delivery
The symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, headaches, sensitivity to cold, shortness of breath and irritability. These can easily disrupt everyday routine; hence it is important to have enough iron in your diet. If you are suffering from any of these symptoms along with amending your diet, seek advice from your health care professional to assess your dietary and medical needs.
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