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The importance of iron in the diet

Understanding the importance of iron
Iron is a trace mineral and is the element used by the body(red blood cells) to produce haemoglobin, the substance responsible to carry oxygen to the body’s tissue. About 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women, and 3% of men do not have enough iron in their body. Iron deficiency is therefore the most common known form of nutritional deficiency. And in most cases the solution is just to eat more iron rich foods. There are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is derived from haemoglobin and is hence present in animal foods that originally contained haemoglobin, such as meat, fish and poultry. Your body absorbs the most iron from heme sources. Most non-heme iron is from plant sources. Recommended dietary allowances(RDAs) for men over the age of 19 and women over the age of 51 are 12 mg per day and for women aged 19 to 50, the RDA is 18 mg per day.

Most common symptoms of an iron deficiency
• Extreme fatigue
• Weakness
• Difficulty concentrating
• Pale skin
• Shortness of breath
• Dizziness.

Iron rich foods and how to boost iron absorption
• Spirulina
• Liver
• Red meat
• Eggs
• Beans and legumes
• Green leafy vegetables
• Raisins
• Fish
• Poultry
• Nuts and seeds
• Wholegrains
• In more severe cases, consider an iron supplement
• Vitamin C and Vitamin B enhance iron absorption
• Also make sure that you have sufficient stomach acid/digestive juices to absorb nutrients.

If you are often experiencing any of the above symptoms, I would highly recommend you see a naturopath to test your iron levels. If you are indeed iron deficient(sometimes the above symptoms may also point to another problem), they can help you get to the cause of the deficiency and supply a treatment plan. An iron test is inexpensive and consists of a simple finger prick and the results are almost instant. If an iron deficiency is not picked up, it may lead to serious health concerns. In most cases, an iron deficiency can be prevented and treated by making simple dietary changes. The best way to prevent iron deficiency is to educate yourself about your iron needs and the best iron sources for your body, and to use this knowledge to make sure your dietary intake is sufficient.

In health and happiness,
Lize

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