Properties and Benefits of Iron: What is the first thing that comes into mind when we think about iron? Answer: energy! When we feel exhausted, stressed out or simply cringe at the idea of getting back up on our feet (literally), the only thing that can give us strength is iron. Interesting enough, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient shortage among the average population. Eating just meat in great amounts will not suddenly give us a godly strength, nor is it healthy. So what should we do to ensure an adequate iron intake and prevent the dreaded anemia? Let’s find out.
Iron is a dietary mineral of great importance for our general well-being. Its main function is transporting oxygen from our lungs to muscles and internal organs, in this order. About 30% of the iron we ingest is stored by our body in case there is a sudden shortage or unexpected rise in iron demands. But, at the same time, we may not always absorb all the iron we take in from food, which puts us at risk for a deficit.
In case of an iron deficiency or poor intake from diet, oxygen delivery slows down. Symptoms such as fatigue, irritability or headaches are signs of low amounts of iron in the body. A more severe shortage (a deficiency-proper) will ultimately lead to anemia. As innocent as it may sound, if left untreated, anemia can have serious consequences on our health and may even prove life-threatening.
Treating anemia can be done successfully by eating right and, if needed, taking some quality dietary supplements. Taking vitamin C can help increase the amount of iron our body absorbs and further contribute to improving the condition and our health. However, it’s true that some people are more likely to develop iron deficiency than others. Women, for instance, are more susceptible to suffer from iron deficiency and even anemia because of blood loss occurring monthly and during childbirth.
Very important: the circulatory system is overstrained during pregnancy, which is why it is recommended that women increase their iron intake during this period. Other categories at risk include people with poor diets and people suffering from ulcers, gastritis or even hemorrhoids and other similar medical conditions which presuppose blood loss.
Teenagers, both girls and boys, may suffer from an iron deficiency due to rapid growth associated with higher iron demands. Also, athletes, bodybuilders or running enthusiasts may be at risk because frequent exercise may lead to iron loss through perspiration.
Finally, iron absorption may be reduced as a result of excessive tea or coffee consumption. Coffee, for example, is known to reduce dietary mineral absorption and increase the risk for mineral deficiencies. Nonetheless, a balanced and varied diet should meet all of our daily requirements, without the need of food supplements.
As mentioned above, a good idea to help prevent, manage and treat an iron deficit is to up our intake of vitamin C. According to research, up to 1,000 mg (1 g) of vitamin C can significantly increase our body’s capacity to absorb dietary iron and thus prevent, manage and even help treat any potential deficiency.
Special medical conditions or predispositions may indeed require iron supplementation, but this should be recommended by a physician only. I often eat spinach and beans, as well as fish, all rich sources of iron. Do you get enough iron from your diet or do you resort to food supplements for you daily intake?