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Hi cutie! Since I’ve been dealing with some pretty serious iron issues (with iron absorption issues and iron infusions), I’ve been getting quite a few questions from you guys about iron – so I thought I’d put together a post to clear things up!

Why Is Iron Needed In The Body

Why Is Iron Needed In The Body

While I’m not a medical professional by any means, I’ve had to learn quite a bit thanks to my experiences so I’m just sharing what I know.

Health Benefits Of Iron Why We Need Ferrum Vector Image

And I’ll be completely honest. Before all these issues came up, I was pretty clueless when it came to iron. We all know we need iron, but most of us aren’t sure why – and that includes me. I didn’t know how important iron was until I didn’t have enough.

Iron is one of the essential minerals that our body needs. It is part of all cells and is important for the normal functioning of our body.

Iron is one of the building blocks of our cells, so it is essential for many cellular functions. Some of the ways iron is used in the body are;

This is just a small glimpse of what iron does in the body – but it is important for all of the above functions and many more.

What Does Iron Do In The Body?

Among many other symptoms. For me, the biggest symptoms were extreme fatigue, poor circulation, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, being constantly cold, being either pale or super yellow (but my liver is perfectly fine, don’t worry!) and just feeling like crap. When my iron levels dropped really low I also became quite moody and cranky as well.

Every body has different iron needs and these occur as we go through different stages of life. That said, here are the recommended dietary allowances (taken from: NHMRC Nutrient Indicator Values ​​for Australia and New Zealand 2006)

Iron is best absorbed from heme (animal/meat sources), however, non-heme (plant-based sources) is actually better regulated in the body.

Why Is Iron Needed In The Body

Above are just a few of the non-heme iron sources – and it’s actually really easy (and delicious) to increase your iron intake. Chia pudding has tons of iron, peanut butter is a great way to add iron to your meals, and oatmeal and quinoa are great iron-packed bases.

Beef And Lamb Are Higher In Iron And Zinc And Easier For The Body To Absorb

Side note: I also think it’s incredibly important to find out if you medically need vitamin or mineral supplementation. All it takes is a simple blood test and you can make sure you’re giving your body exactly what it needs. Iron is an essential nutrient for vegans to consume. While it is possible for vegans to get enough iron, careful planning is often required to prevent deficiency, especially for people with higher iron needs.

Iron is an essential mineral that supports many important body functions. It is an essential mineral because the body cannot produce iron. Humans must consume enough iron to meet the body’s needs.

Iron deficiency is a worldwide problem, especially among people who have an active menstrual cycle. It’s a common concern for both vegans and non-vegans 1.

When talking about iron deficiency, most people focus on the first function: oxygen transport. Many signs and symptoms of iron deficiency are related to this activity.

The Ultimate Guide To Iron

If someone has low levels of iron, or an obvious iron deficiency, any of these functions may be impaired.

Iron needs are broken down by age and gender. The following chart shows Health Canada’s current iron recommendations, in milligrams (mg) per day 8:

A higher iron requirement for women aged 14-50 assumes an active menstrual cycle. Of course, periods can start earlier, end earlier, last longer, and occur in people who don’t identify as female.

Why Is Iron Needed In The Body

It’s best to ask your doctor or nutritionist which category best suits your needs. In general, if you have an active menstrual cycle, your iron needs increase.

Iron, What’s All The Fuss About?

There is a specific note regarding daily iron requirements in Health Canada’s reference tables. It states that:

“The need for iron is 1.8 times higher for vegetarians due to the lower availability of iron from vegetarian diets. 8

There is a lot of debate about these recommendations because they are based only on research that shows that iron from plant foods is not as easily absorbed as iron from meat 3

9. While this is true, there are many factors that can improve or limit iron absorption which are discussed below.

Anaemia: The Need To Act Early

You may wonder why there is any controversy about vegetable sources of iron. It is based on two types of iron found in food:

Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods. The body has a harder time absorbing this type of iron 3

9. Absorption of non-heme iron can also be affected by many factors; both to increase or decrease absorption.

Why Is Iron Needed In The Body

When it comes to nutrition, it’s not just how much you eat, it’s also how much your body absorbs. If you absorb less non-heme iron, you need to consume more to meet your daily intake requirements.

Iron Intake For Vegetarians

There is a lot of interesting research on these two types of iron, and the pros and cons of each. The way humans absorb and control iron status is complex and will not be described in more detail here.

A vegan diet contains only non-heme iron. Sufficient plant-based iron can be consumed and absorbed through a proper diet.

Most of the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency are related to oxygen transport. Without enough iron, the body cannot make hemoglobin molecules. Since hemoglobin helps transport oxygen, less oxygen moves around the body.

Are vegans more likely to be iron deficient? Some studies suggest that vegetarians have lower iron levels, with or without anemia, compared to omnivores 1

Iron For Strong, Healthy Blood Handouts

A recent review (2021) found that vegetarians had, on average, lower levels of iron in their blood compared to omnivores 1.

This study found that menstruating women, regardless of diet type, were 4 times more likely to be iron deficient compared to non-menstruating women. Furthermore, iron deficiency was more common among vegetarians, compared to omnivores, regardless of whether they menstruated on day 1.

Certain factors (including inflammation) can increase iron in the blood. When this study removed these confounding factors, it found no difference in the prevalence of iron deficiency between vegetarians and omnivores who did not menstruate 1.

Why Is Iron Needed In The Body

Even when these factors were removed, menstruating vegetarians were still more iron deficient compared to menstruating omnivores.

Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency

This study, along with other studies on dietary factors and iron status, suggest that vegetarians and vegans, especially those who menstruate, need to focus on meeting their iron needs 1

Eating iron-rich foods and using methods to improve iron absorption are key for vegans to get enough iron.

In general, iron is found in whole grains (and fortified refined grains), legumes, seeds, and leafy green vegetables. There are smaller amounts of iron in nuts and other vegetables or fruits. Canned tomatoes and dried fruit tend to contain higher amounts of iron.

In Canada, iron is fortified in refined grains and meat alternatives (vegan meat substitutes) 12. It can be fortified in other foods 12. Read the label to see how much iron is in packaged foods.

Vegan Iron: How To Get Enough From Plant Based Foods

Here is a list of common plant foods that are high in iron. The data is from the Canadian Nutrient File and is based on foods available in Canada 13. All values ​​are rounded to the nearest whole number (unless the value was less than 1 mg).

I have tried to provide “realistic” portion sizes for each type of food. All serving sizes are by weight. If you use volumetric measurements, I usually used the following:

There are certain factors that can inhibit or increase the absorption of iron from plant-based foods (non-heme iron). These are important for vegans because they can affect how much iron the body absorbs.

Why Is Iron Needed In The Body

The best way to increase the absorption of non-heme iron is to include vitamin C with any meal containing plant-based iron 3

9. Since iron is found in various plant foods, it is ideal to include vitamin C with each meal.

Vitamin C is largely found in vegetables and fruits, especially citrus. Fresh, raw vegetables and fruits tend to contain more vitamin C.

Adding vitamin C to meals when practical is one of the best ways to ensure adequate iron absorption.

Phytates are found in many iron-rich foods. Soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking these foods can significantly lower their phytate content. That’s why it’s best to always soak grains, beans and lentils (then discard the soaking water) before cooking.

Symptoms Of Anemia

Polyphenols are found in many healthy foods, but can also reduce iron absorption. Avoiding coffee and tea, red wine and dark chocolate at mealtimes can help maximize iron absorption 3

9. Likewise, calcium supplements can decrease how much iron the body absorbs, so take a calcium supplement at least one hour before or after a meal. Keep in mind that many antacids use calcium carbonate and provide large amounts of calcium. For maximum iron absorption, avoid taking this with meals as well.

14. A well-planned plant-based diet should be able to meet iron needs without supplements for most people 13

Why Is Iron Needed In The Body

However, there are vegans who struggle to maintain adequate iron levels or are iron deficient. In these cases, it is important to talk to your doctor or nutritionist for the best

Iron Deficiency Anemia: A Comprehensive Guide

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