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Do We Need Iron?

  • Iron is an essential mineral that plays a key role in blood production; it is an important component of hemoglobin, a protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. In addition, iron aids in energy metabolism, reduces insomnia, helps regulate body temperature, and boosts brain function and the immune system. Therefore, iron is a crucial nutrient to intake.

    • Deficiency: Iron deficiency is very common, especially for women (due to loss of blood during menstruation every month), and it could lead to iron deficiency anemia – the condition of lacking adequate healthy red blood cells. If left untreated, iron deficiency anemia can cause damage to major organs.
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    • Symptoms: Iron deficiency may result in fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and cold hands and feet. Pale skin and brittle nails are also common in those with not enough iron in their bodies. 
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    • Sources: Meat, seafood, legumes, and leafy greens such as spinach are all very high in iron. Quinoa, dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds are also great sources.
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    • Two types of iron: Heme iron is only found in meat and seafood, and it is more easily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron. Non-heme iron, on the other hand, is found in plant-based foods such as vegetables, grains, and nuts, and is less readily absorbed. 
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    • Iron absorption: Absorption of iron is enhanced with vitamin C – therefore, nutrition experts recommend eating foods like strawberries, tomatoes and broccoli along with the iron-rich foods being consumed.
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    • Supplements: If you are still not getting enough iron from your diet, you may want to consider taking an iron supplement. This is especially true for pregnant women, vegetarians/vegans, or those with certain health conditions who might need to take in higher levels of iron. 
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    • How much iron do you need? The amount of iron you should take daily varies with age, gender, and individual conditions. Too much iron can actually be toxic, so it is important to pay attention to the specific needs of your body.
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Overall, the benefits of iron should not be overlooked when planning and preparing nutritious meals, for this mineral helps you stay healthy, active and energized.

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