How it helps?
Here comes the oxygen delivery service of your body!! The mineral iron makes the part ‘heme’ of the famous hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance of your red blood cell, which supplies oxygen to each and every cell of your body. Without oxygen any cell can not perform its function. For our muscles , myoglobin is the one who ensures adequate supply of oxygen to them. Here comes iron again!! Iron is also a part of this myoglobin. So too little iron meaning too little oxygen, lead to irritability, weakness, headaches, in severe cases , iron deficiency anemia.
How do we get it?
Iron is found in a variety of animal and plant foods. There are basically two kind of irons available for us.
- HEME iron
- NON HEME iron
Heme iron is the type of iron found in animal products like red meat, liver, poultry, egg etc. This is more easily absorbed compared to non heme iron.
Non heme iron is the one found in vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, dried foods etc.
How much do we require daily?
It is amazing to know that the amount of absorption of iron is directly proportional to the depletion in the body.
For example a person with iron – deficiency anemia will absorb about two to three times more iron after eating the same food, compared to the person with normal iron levels.
A normal iron requirement in our body for average adult male is 28 mg / day. While the same for women is 30 mg/day.
For fetal growth and development, a pregnant lady needs more iron, and she would require 37.5 mg/day.
How do we get it?
It is best practice that a person include both heme and non heme iron in his diet. But for strict vegan people if they are not capable of taking non heme iron, then they must imply techniques to increase iron absorption.
The best heme sources are: lean red meats, turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, veal, egg yolks, and liver.
The best non heme sources are beans , lentils, whole grains, dried fruit, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, nuts and seeds, chickpeas, fortified cereals, barley and wheat germ.
How to boost Iron absorption?
- Couple the non heme iron with vitamin C. As vitamin C would increase the absorption of iron.
- Avoid drinking coffee or tea with an iron rich meal; they inhibit the absorption of iron.
- Calcium interferes with the absorption of iron, so if you take calcium supplement , do not take them with iron rich meal.
- As per our Indian tradition, cook in cast iron cookware, unbelievable , but true the minute amount of iron will seep into food.
- Couple the heme iron however small with non heme iron will enhance the absorption of non heme iron.
What happens if we don’t get enough?
First sign of iron deficiency is chronic fatigue. Weakness, tiredness and irritability, severe headaches are sign of iron deficiency. In severe cases it can cause iron deficiency anemia.
What happens if we overdose it?
Its very uncommon to have overdose of iron, but yes quite possible in two cases
- If you consume unnecessary overdose of supplements.
- If you have genetic abnormality when body stores excessive amounts of iron.
The result can be liver and other organ damage.
Although a well balanced diet should be the source of primary nutrition, but if you think you are not able to have one, go ahead and have a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral with iron, you will definitely get benefited.