Iron is absolutely vital to all body cells. Iron deficiency anemia results when there is not enough iron in the red blood cells. Anemia is a common problem often caused by pregnancy, blood loss or a diet low in iron. If your blood iron level is low, your doctor may recommend foods high in iron, a multivitamin pill, or an iron supplement. A blood test will show if you have iron deficiency anemia.
The symptoms of iron deficiency are:
“Lack of energy, tiredness, extreme fatigue, feeling of weakness, pale skin, light headedness, headache, pale skin on the lining of the eyes, the inner mouth and the nails, rapid and forceful heartbeat, low blood pressure with position change from sitting to standing up, finger nails that become thin, brittle and white – they may grow abnormally and get a spoon-shaped appearance, sore tongue, decrease in appetite, shortness of breath during exercise, brittle hair, lowered immunity and increased susceptibility to infection.”
“Iron is not automatically absorbed by the body and its availability depends on whether the iron is found in the form of HEME or NON-HEME iron. HEME iron is found only in meat, fish and poultry and is absorbed much more easily than NON-HEME iron, which is found mostly in fruits, vegetables, dried beans, nuts and grain products.”
HEME FOODS include:
Liver, Beef, Chicken, Shrimp, Cod, Flounder, Pork, Salmon, Tuna, and Turkey
NON-HEME FOODS include:
Almonds, apricots, bagels, baked beans, bread, broccoli, dates, kidney beans, lima beans, enriched macaroni, chick peas, seaweed, peas, prune juice, raisins, rice, enriched spaghetti, and cooked spinach
Increase iron absorption from non-heme foods:
“1. Eat a good source of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli, and strawberries with a Non-Heme food.
2. Eat a Heme Food with a Non-Heme food.
3. Cook Non-Heme foods in iron pots, such as a cast iron skillet. “
The following will decrease iron absorption in Non-Heme foods:
“1. Large amounts of tea or coffee consumed with a meal (the polyphenols bind the iron).
2. Excess consumption of high fiber foods or bran supplements (the phytates in such foods inhibit absorption).
3. A high intake of calcium – take your calcium supplement at a different time than your iron supplement.”
How much iron do I need?
Pre-menopausal women – 18 mg/day.
Non-vegetarian men and post-menopausal women – 8 mg/day.
Vegetarians are higher due to the high fiber diet – 14 mg/day for men and 33 mg/day for women.
Your iron intake should not be more than 45mg/day.
Dietary Sources of Iron, www.mckinley.uiuc.edu/handouts/dietary%5Fsources%5Firon.html