Iron is a mineral utilized in the body to carry oxygen. Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. While anyone can be iron deficient, high-risk people are children, women ages nineteen to fifty and pregnant women. Being deficient in iron can cause fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, brittle hair and nails, poor appetite, and cravings of ice, dirt or starch. Being deficient in iron can also cause anemia. Anemia is a condition in which one lacks enough red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues causing the symptoms listed above.
Iron can be classified into two groups — heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in animal-based foods and is better absorbed in the body than non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is found in plant-based food sources and is still beneficial to consume for one’s daily iron requirements.
The recommended dietary allowance or RDA for iron is:
|Children 1-3||7 mg|
|Children 4-8||10 mg|
|Children 9-13||8 mg|
How can you meet this recommendation you ask? Read below.
Incorporate more iron-based foods into your diet.
Sources of heme iron foods:
- Red meat
Sources of non-heme iron foods:
- Dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach)
- Dried fruit (e.g. raisins)
- Iron-fortified cereal, bread and pasta
Consume iron-rich food with a source of vitamin C.
Vitamin C increases your body’s ability to absorb iron. Therefore, consuming vitamin C rich foods with an iron source is important. Vitamin C rich foods are found in fruits and vegetables.
Some examples are:
- Citrus fruits (e.g. oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, grapefruit)
- Leafy greens
Avoid drinking caffeine with iron rich foods.
Caffeine does just the opposite of vitamin C when paired with iron rich foods. It reduces your absorption of the mineral. So make sure to space out that cup of coffee or tea when eating your iron rich foods.
Eat calcium rich foods independently of iron rich foods.
Like caffeine, calcium rich foods inhibit the absorption of iron by competing with calcium. While it’s okay to consume calcium and iron together sometimes, it can be beneficial to not consume them together all of the time.
Sources of calcium are:
- Soy products fortified with calcium
Cook with an iron skillet.
Cast iron skillets can naturally and safely add iron to your diet by simply cooking food as you normally would on the skillet. This is a very unique way to add iron to your diet.
Get your iron levels tested if you suspect you have iron deficiency.
If you suspect you are iron deficient, ask your doctor or get tested at the Student Health Clinic.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12859709/ Geerligs PD, Brabin BJ, Omari AA. Food prepared in iron cooking pots as an intervention for reducing iron deficiency anemia in developing countries: a systematic review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2003 Aug;16(4):275-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-277x.2003.00447.x. PMID: 12859709.