Are You Getting Enough Iron From the Foods You Eat?
Iron is a mineral that is very essential to our survival. Most of the iron found in our bodies is found in the hemoglobin in red blood cells. These red blood cells carry oxygen through our bodies. If we do not have enough iron and do not consistently get enough iron in our diets it will result in fatigue and a low immune system. Anemia is the end result for many with a low iron count. If you have ever suffered from anemia then you know it is difficult to muster the energy to do just about anything.
Aside from taking an iron supplement, how best can we get enough iron in our diets? First there are two types of iron; those found in animal based foods (heme) and those found in plant based foods (non-heme). There is a big difference in how much iron is found in these types of foods and how our bodies handle it. Our bodies can process and utilize the iron found in animal based foods much better than the iron found in plant based foods - even though most plant based foods have a much higher iron content. This means that vegetarians in particular should make sure they are getting enough iron in their diets.
I know that most people don't give a second thought to how much iron they get on a daily basis, but sometimes you really should. Women in particular need to watch out for anemia, especially during their menstrual cycle, pregnancy, right after having a baby, or while nursing. Teenagers also need a bit more iron each day than the average person. Men usually don't have to worry.
In order to make sure you get enough iron in your diet you should try to eat iron rich foods. Beef and oysters have the highest iron content of all the meats, while tofu, lentils, oatmeal and prune juice have the highest iron content of the plants. One way you can ensure you are getting enough iron is to eat foods that are fortified with iron, such as cereal and bread products. Keep in mind though that this type of iron is harder for our bodies to use. A way you can help your body out is by making sure to eat foods high in Vitamin C at the same time you eat foods high in iron. The Vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron better.
Using an iron skillet for cooking will also help you get more iron in your diet. Every time you use it some of the iron will leach out into your foods - and this is a good thing. Our bodies need the iron! You can also add blackstrap molasses to your diet, as it is high in iron as well.
If you are in one of the high risk categories for a low iron count, try keeping track of what you eat for a week or so. If you are getting enough iron, great. If not and you frequently feel very tired then it is time to rethink things. Either make a concerted effort to eat iron-rich foods or talk to your doctor about taking an iron supplement. Do not take an iron supplement without talking to your doctor first, as too much iron is harmful to your body.