Are You Getting Enough Iron?
A healthy diet is the key to getting the iron that you need. According to a Harvard study, one quarter of the world’s population is anaemic. This means that there is not enough iron to produce the red blood cells and oxygen carrying hemoglobin needed to nourish their numerous cells.
Keeping the tank full
Most of us get the iron we need from food. Red meat, poultry, and fish contain the most easily absorbed form of dietary iron which is called heme iron. This is iron attached to the hemoglobin protein and is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron found in plants, which is not attached to the protein.
Vegetarians and vegans should take in more iron from leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, mushrooms, and other iron-rich plant foods. They also need to get enough vitamin C to help the body absorb iron from food.
The recommendation for iron intake is as follows:
Women between the ages of 19 and 50 should get 18 mg of iron a day,
Women ages 51 and older,
Men 19 years and beyond need 8 mg a day.
Good Sources of Iron
- Artificially fortified foods, like breakfast cereals and grains, help to meet daily iron requirements.
- Animal foods contain heme iron, the form that the body absorbs most easily. Sources include beef or calf heart, chicken, eggs, liver, ham, pork, red salmon, and sardines.
- Many plant foods are also good sources of iron. These include beet, dandelion, and mustard greens; kale, leeks, spinach, and Swiss chard; beans, lentils, and peas; and nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Iron and aging
Iron-deficiency anemia can become more prevalent with aging. Some possible causes include hidden bleeding from ulcers or an inflamed stomach lining (gastritis), inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer.
If you don't think you are getting enough iron, or feel fatigued and assume its iron deficiency, make sure you have a blood test to confirm your suspicions before you pop an iron supplement. Excess iron can build up to toxic levels.
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