5 Tips to Boost your Iron Levels
Did you know that there are two forms of iron?
Heme Iron: Comes from animal products and is absorbed much better in the human body.
Non-Heme Iron: Comes from plant sources. The human body does not absorb non-heme iron as well, so we must take in much higher amounts to get the same amount of elemental iron compared to heme iron.
What does iron do anyway?
Iron is an important mineral that, when deficient, can lead to a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, hair loss, weakness, pale skin, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, and even a sore tongue. Having iron deficiency anemia means that you do not have enough iron to produce healthy, plump red blood cells, resulting in small cells that cannot carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body. It is ideal to catch iron deficiency before it progresses to an anemic state.
5 Easy Tips to Boost Iron Levels
1. Vitamin C:
Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron. When taking an iron supplement or eating iron-rich foods, eat Vitamin C-rich foods or take a Vitamin C supplement as well. Examples of Vitamin C-rich foods include bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, orange, grapefruit, lemons, tomatoes, and broccoli.
2. Adequate Daily Protein Intake:
Protein intake is essential to get all of the required amino acids. The amino acids lysine, histadine, cysteine and methionine all increase iron absorption in the body.
3. Cast Iron Cookware:
The acid in foods pulls some of the iron out of the cast-iron pots and pans. Simmering acidic foods, such as tomato sauce, in an iron pot can increase the iron content of the food more than ten-fold. Cooking foods containing other acids, such as vinegar, red wine, lemon or lime juice, in an iron pot can also increase the iron content of the final mixture.
4. Avoid consuming Tannins with Iron:
Avoiding tannin-containing foods/drinks (black tea, coffee, rhubarb) when eating iron-rich foods or taking iron supplements. Tannins can bind to iron, making it more difficult for the body to absorb.
5. Avoid Dairy and Iron Combinations:
Avoid consuming dairy and iron-rich foods together, as calcium competes with iron for absorption.
Bonus: Choose a high quality Iron supplement
Many iron supplements are made with iron salts that are poorly absorbed in the body or with iron doses that are too low to replete deficiencies. If possible, choose a iron supplement containing heme iron. Speak with your health care provider about appropriate iron doses for you.
Menstruating and pregnant women are most at risk of becoming iron deficient, however following a vegetarian diet, Celiac disease, and frequent/severe bleeding of any cause can also result in deficiency. When a patient comes in with low energy, iron deficiency is always on my list of conditions to investigate.
If you are concerned that you are iron deficient, you should speak with your Naturopathic Doctor or Medical Doctor about having your iron levels tested on your next blood test. Iron is a mineral that can reach toxic levels with over-supplementation, so it ideal to have your levels tested before starting supplementation and after 3 months of supplementation to determine if levels are increasing.