Iron is an essential mineral that is vital to our health and can be found mainly in our red blood cells. It boosts the formation of haemoglobin which is the primary transporter of oxygen from our lungs to our body tissue. 25% of the bodies iron is stored in ferritin which is present in our cells. Men can store up to 3years worth of iron, but woman can only store 1years supply hence anaemia being more common in woman. Doctors order a ferritin blood test to test for anaemia, or to check if there is too much iron in the blood.
Iron being an essential means that we must get it from the food we eat or from taking an iron supplement.
There are two types of iron found in our foods. Heme iron which is from animal foods that contain haemoglobin. This is the best source of iron, as 40% of it is readily absorbed into the body. The other type is non-heme iron which can be found in plant foods. Only 2%-20% of non-heme iron is absorbed, making vegetarians and vegans a lot more at risk of iron deficiency.
Studies have shown that foods high in vitamin C help with the absorption of both types of iron. These foods should be eaten at the same time as the iron rich foods to boost absorption. FSC’s complex iron supplement covers all the bases by including vitamin C to boost iron absorption.
Iron can be found in high levels in the following foods
- Shellfish (clams, oysters and muscles in particular
- Liver (chicken liver pate)
- Red meat
- Pumpkin seeds
- Turkey (especially the dark meat)
- Good quality dark chocolate
- Fortified cereals
Iron deficiency anaemia can cause extreme fatigue, body weakness, shortness of breath because without iron our bodies cannot produce enough of a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen.
Other symptoms of an iron deficiency anaemia are
- Dizziness, light-headedness
- Restless legs
- Shortness of breath
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feat
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances (dirt or starch)
Pregnant woman are usually advised by their doctor to supplement with iron as there stored iron needs to serve their own increased blood volume as well as be a source of haemoglobin for the foetus. Studies have shown that low daily dose of iron (20mg-30mg elemental iron) may improve birth weight even in non-anaemic pregnant woman. Always speak to your doctor first as they can advise you on what dosage is needed depending on the results of your ferritin test.