Iron 101: What it is and why you need it

Iron 101

You’ve heard of pumping iron at the gym, but what about at home? A main nutrient required for transferring oxygen to different parts of our bodies along with many other benefits, is iron.

Iron 101

Having an iron deficiency (or lack of iron in the body) affects millions of people in America today, and that in return, can cause iron deficiency anemia. This occurs when our red blood cells count is lower than normal, and when our bodies don’t have enough of the mineral iron to create hemoglobin – which is the protein found in RBC (red blood cells) that carries the oxygen to our vital organs and tissue. Women and men, people with poor diets, and some vegetarians who don’t replace their iron-enriched foods are the ones most common to develop it. 

Some complications that could arise from developing iron deficiency anemia include having an irregular heartbeat since your heart will have to work twice as hard to pump blood and oxygen throughout your body. You could also end up having pregnancy complications, and children with an iron deficiency can have issues with development and growth. 

To avoid, or ease those complications, make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet! This will help with oxygen transportation, and help with your energy levels since anemia can cause severe fatigue.

How to Get More Iron in Your Diet

The most popular source of iron is within meat, but there are other options especially if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough within the foods you’re eating (which will be listed below), consider taking iron supplements. Here is a great article on why we need it, and how much we should have at particular ages. If you believe you do need to begin taking supplements, consult your doctor beforehand to make sure it’s completely okay and safe.

Like stated above, most sources of iron are within meat. The most popular form of meat is seafood – shellfish contains roughly 1 milligram to 5 milligrams of iron, most types of fish contain 1 milligram, and seaweed can contain roughly 0.5 milligrams per serving! Pork, beef and poultry are other great meat options for iron. For those who may not be meat eaters at all, or those who don’t eat meat all the time, there are other options for you to get your iron. Tofu contains roughly 5 milligrams of iron per serving, and other great sources include: nuts, seeds, raisins, dried apricots, and dates. Other options that are yummy include: dark chocolate, certain breakfast cereals, most seeded bagels (like poppy seed and sesame), chickpeas, and quinoa.

Remember to ask your doctor if you’re not sure your iron levels are low, and if they are, consider the options above to help you out. Iron is a key nutrient for our bodies to thrive and be healthy, so please make sure you’re getting the proper amount of it on a daily basis.

By: Bethany Barich (Follow on Instagram & Twitter)

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