Ways to Increase Your Iron Intake
Many of us know iron to be one of the essential minerals that we should intake for optimal functioning, but less is known about why iron is so beneficial to our bodies. As a mineral, iron is not naturally produced within our body and must be consumed through the foods that we eat or via supplements. Once iron is absorbed by our body, it assists in the process of creating hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that enables our red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout our body. Myoglobin is another protein that assists with oxygen storage, especially within our muscles. A lack of hemoglobin and myoglobin can be bad news for your body since the end result is a condition called anemia. Anemia indicates that your muscles and tissues are lacking in oxygen and subsequently won’t be able to function effectively.
Symptoms of iron deficiency are fortunately, fairly easy to spot. Some common symptoms are headaches, paleness, unusual fatigue, dizziness, lack of concentration, and shortness of breath. Iron deficiencies can also be spotted by checking in with your primary care doctor and having them order the complete blood count (CBC). The most common contributors to having an iron deficiency are due to not maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in vegetarianism, stomach diseases, pregnancy, and excessive bleeding.
It is recommended that men and women intake 7-18 mg of iron per day and pregnant women increase their iron intake to 27 grams. There are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Not all iron sources are created equal: heme iron is preferable to non-heme due to it being more easily absorbed by our bodies. Examples of heme iron include red meat (beef), organ meats (liver), fish (salmon, tuna, halibut), poultry (chicken, pork), and shellfish (oysters, clams). Non-heme iron sources include green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), nuts (almonds), beans (soybeans, lentils), dried fruits, and grains (wheat, oats, rice).
While increasing your intake of heme iron foods can be very beneficial in boosting your iron levels, consider also adding Vitamin C to your diet for maximum iron absorption. The pairing of Vitamin C and iron is a match made in heaven: non-heme iron is converted in to a form that is much easier for your body to absorb. Consider pairing your iron-rich meal with a glass of orange juice or other foods that are high in Vitamin C such as guava, kiwis, green peppers, broccoli or kale.
Finally, consider taking an iron supplement to ensure that you are intaking a sufficient amount of iron. When incorporating an iron supplement into your regimen, discuss with your health care provider the appropriate dosage and frequency.
“Health is wealth”, a mantra Jessica’s mother regularly repeated throughout her childhood. Jessica values achieving balance and wholeness in both arenas of mental and physical health. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a practicing mental health therapist, Jessica promotes healthy living, self-care, mindfulness, and above all, kindness towards self.