Why is it important for the body: It carries oxygen to the tissues from the lungs in the form of hemoglobin.
Daily recommended intake: 10mg Men / 18mg women
- Beef/turkey/lamb (3oz provides 2mg)
- Lima beans/kidney/lentils/soybeans (1/2 cup provides 2-4.5mg)
- Pumpkin/spinach (1/2 cup provides 2-3mg)
- Tomatoes/cherries (1/2 cup provides 2mg)
- Breakfast cereals (1cup provides 4-18mg)
- Semi-sweet chocolate (3oz provides 2.6mg)
Foods that HELP Absorption: Vitamin C (Citrus Juices), Lactic Acid (Yogurt, Kefir, Cottage Cheese), Tartaric Acid (Grapes, Bananas, Tamarind).
Foods PREVENT Absorption: Whole grains (including beans, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta) because the phytates in these foods inhibit the absorption of certain minerals, including iron. Absorption is also inhibited by polyphenols, found coffee and red wine
Interesting facts: Heme iron, which comes from animal sources, is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron, which comes from plant sources.
Symptoms of deficiency: Fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, irritability, weakness, pica (desire to eat non-foods such as clay or dirt), pallor (pale color in skin), brittle or grooved nails
Causes of deficiency: Excessive menstrual bleeding, ulcers, hemorrhoids, malabsorption syndromes, inadequate intake, blood donation. Note that If you are being treated for iron deficiency anemia it will take 6 weeks for you to see any improvement in your iron levels, since it takes that long for iron to be incorporated into new red blood cells.
Keep in mind: While iron is needed to transport oxygen to cells, please know that it is a pro-oxidant, which is a chemical that can induce oxidative stress on the body and damage cells (the opposite of an antioxidant). Please don’t take an iron pill unless your doctor confirms that you are deficient.