Friday Feature - Iron

Are you getting enough iron? This is a tough one, and for me a personal one. Iron can make the difference between you feeling on top of the world and downright miserable.

Iron is critical for producing hemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout your body. So without it, everything suffers—and can lead to anemia.

So what are the signs that you could be suffering with a low iron intake or even anemia?

  • General fatigue

  • Weakness

  • Pale skin

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness

  • A tingling or crawling feeling in the legs

  • Tongue swelling or soreness

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

  • Brittle nails

  • Headaches

  • Poor concentration

  • Weakened immune system

  • Leaky gut or IBS

The problem is a lot of people, especially women, dismiss these signs as a symptom of everyday life, but that might not be the case. There are so many benefits to ensuring that you have enough iron in your diet, and let's look at the top reasons now.

Energy

An iron deficiency can mean that you aren’t able to produce enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells — therefore your body struggles to transport oxygen to your brain, tissues, muscles and cells, leaving you feeling exhausted and weak. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include lack of energy and fatigue. Anemia also can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, coldness in your hands and feet, pale skin, chest pain, and weakness. Iron supports ongoing energy by helping enough oxygen reach cells. It also helps with the metabolic enzyme processes that the body carries out to digest proteins and absorb nutrients from food. This is why an iron deficiency causes exhaustion, trouble being active and many other symptoms of feeling sluggish.

Muscle Function

Iron is needed for muscle movement because it helps store the oxygen in muscles that allows them to move and strengthen. About 70 percent of your body’s iron can found in the red blood cells of your blood called hemoglobin along with muscle cells called myoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential for transferring oxygen in your blood from the lungs to the tissues. Myoglobin, in muscle cells, accepts, stores, transports and releases oxygen.Without iron, the primary cells in the muscles, called myoglobin, cannot hold oxygen. Without oxygen, these cells are not be able to function properly, resulting in muscle weakness.

Brain Function

The brain is very dependent on oxygen for proper function. If iron is not present, the brain does not receive the oxygen it needs, resulting in poor memory, decreased productivity and apathy. Children with iron deficiency tend to become irritable, restless and are unable to pay attention in class. These symptoms typically disappear once iron levels are restored. Numerous human studies haves shown the negative effects of iron deficiency on learning and memory as well as social behavior. Iron deficiency during the first years of life is particularly concerning. Researchers believe it can lead to learning and memory deficits. A report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discusses that even healthy young adults can have variations in brain structure integrity in correlation with variations in iron levels.

It’s best to obtain iron from your diet by regularly consuming iron-rich foods. You should only supplement with iron if you’re deficient, and you should do so after discussion with your GP. Vitamin C is a strong promoter of iron absorption, and when vitamin C rich foods are combined with foods rich in iron, absorption of the iron is substantially increased. There are also foods that limit your bodies ability to absorb iron, such as tannin in tea.

But what can you eat to boost your iron levels naturally?

Spirulina, Dark Chocolate, Raisins, Dried Apricots, grass fed beef and liver, black beans, pistachios and lentils are all great sources of iron, that are easily absorbed by your body.

Some easy ways to make sure you are getting enough iron is to add spinach to your morning smoothies, or keep a handful of dried apricots in your desk for a quick and delicious snack.

I love this Rejuvenating Bowl from Deliciously Ella and these Sweet Potato and Black Bean burgers from Naturally Sassy. Spirulina can be a bit of an acquired taste so try this smoothie from Minimalist Baker or add some to your Pesto as shown here by Organic Burst


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