Iron deficiency is ranked the world’s #1 nutrient deficiency.
What does this have to do with eating clay? Keep reading, it will all make sense soon 😉
Why is iron so important?
A significant function of iron is growth, most notably required in the early stages of life, from foetal growth through to adolescence. It plays an important role in muscle movement, transporting nutrients, and brain functions such as cognition, emotions, learning, memory and sensorimotor function. Iron is also used in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, which is important for blood pressure, heart rate, sleep, appetite, metabolism and temperature control.
There are two types of iron, haem and non-haem. Haem iron comes from animal sources, and non-haem from plant sources. Basically, haem iron is easily absorbed in the body, as opposed to non-haem where the absorption rate is much lower. Some plant foods also contain binders that also hinder the absorption of iron. Such binders are found in phytates (in legumes), polyphenols (in tea, oregano, coffee, grains and red wine) and vegetable proteins (in soy beans and nuts). Another one to factor in is calcium; this also hinders the absorption of iron. Simultaneous consumption of calcium and/or phytates, polyphenols and vegetable proteins with iron-rich foods should be avoided.
What food sources contain iron?
- Beef liver
- Red meats
- Oysters – canned
- Dried fruits (figs, apricots, sultanas)
- Fortified grains and cereals
- Leafy greens
- Pinto beans
- Sunflower seeds
- Tomato juice
A little tip: to help increase absorption of non-haem iron, try pairing these with foods rich in vitamin C.
Who is most vulnerable of an iron deficiency?
- Woman who menstruate
- Pregnant woman
- Young children during growth
What are the signs and symptoms of low iron?
Weakness, fatigue, headaches, concave nails, failure to regulate body temperature, pale skin, impaired work performance, compromised immunity and palm creases. In some cases, people begin to desire non-foods such as clay, paste & ice, an iron deficiency known as pica (finally, the picture makes sense!).
Is there such a thing as too much iron?
Quick answer – Yes!
Iron poisoning from large doses of iron supplements can cause constipation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Supplements should be kept out of reach as they can be fatal if ingested by a child.
There is also a genetic disorder that produces iron overload, known as haemochromatosis. The body normally prevents iron from being absorbed if it has no need for it, however in haemochromatosis the body fails to do this and iron is then absorbed beyond it’s requirements. This genetic disorder increases the risk of diabetes, liver cancer, heart disease and arthritis.
So how much iron should you be having?
Men – 8mg per day
Women – 18mg per day
Note – vegetarians should aim for 80% more iron in their diet to compensate for the low absorption rate of non-haem sources.
Thanks for reading & journeying along with me 🙂
*A special thanks to my gorgeous friend, Julieanne Edwards for the hair and makeup in this pic – www.julieanneedwards.com