Helping you cure the most common Anemia Disorder with Iron Rich Foods
Above: The molecular structure of an Iron (Fe) atom uploaded to Flickr by cookipedia.
The Iron Mineral is vital to human life and yet iron deficiency is so common around the world.
Iron plays an important role in our red blood cells; our blood couldn’t live without it. And yet it is grouped as a MINOR mineral (AKA a TRACE mineral).
It’s even worse if you add diabetes on top! In fact this is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.
How does Iron deficiency interfere with Diabetes?
This deficiency is loosely related to diabetes as it can interfere with your blood sugar levels.Iron is needed to form haemoglobin (keep reading if you don’t know what this is) which carries oxygen round thebody. Obviously we need oxygen and glucose to create energy.
Insufficient oxygen can make our bodies struggle to make energy creating a chain reaction that could interfere with your blood sugar levels. And it doesn’t help if you’re also a woman!
So whose at risk?
Everyone. But those with the highest risk are:
- Infants under 24 months
- Teenage girls (due to puberty)
- Pregnant women
- & The elderly
What is iron deficiency, really?
Iron deficiency is the most common form of anaemia (commonly spelt anemia/anemic). Anemia is a condition where youroxygen carrying haemoglobin level (commonly spelt haemoglobin) is below normal. Hard to believe that diabetes may notbe your only condition!
Don’t worry though, there are many types of anemia. And Iron anemia is possibly the least serious condition so you shouldn’t need to worry about being anemic.
No, Haemoglobin (he-moe-globe-in).
It is a chemical present in the red blood cells making blood red and helps make energy to transport round the body. I’ll refer to this chemical throughout this page.
If you want a more in-depth description of haemoglobin, its properties and chemical reactions, use the links below.
Iron Anemia Symptoms
Here are a handful of symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. Some will occur early whereas others may become apparent if your deficiency is long-term!
- Tiredness and palpitations (unusual heartbeat patterns)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest Pain (Angina), leg pains (intermittent claudication), headaches
- Burning/Dryness/Sores around the mouth and tongue
- Soft, stripy, spoon-shaped nails (I was tempted to say snails for the alliteration)
- Brittle hair
Why is iron deficiency anemia so common?
Well this isn’t a good time to be woman :^) No really, due to the menstruation cycle, pregnancy and puberty, women lose a lot of blood. And since iron is in our blood, every time you lose blood, you lose iron.
But that’s not the only reason, after all you may not want to admit it but men do exist and they don’t have periods!
If you have a poor absorption rate of minerals and/or a diet deficient in iron, you are bound to have an iron deficiency. And this isn’t a good time to be a vegetarian/vegan either.
Iron comes in two forms:
- Non Heme
Each type has a different iron absorption rate which can be poor if you’re a veggie/vegan.
Heme Iron is the easiest to absorbed as it is bound to haemoglobin and myglobin (the same way iron is bound in our blood).It is found in many animal products.
Non Heme Iron is poorly absorbed and it is found in plant foods and crops. The E.U RDA for Iron is around 15mg Depending on your age) but you will need to consume much more if you only eat iron in food that are vegetarian approved.
How to have a balanced diet with adequate iron.
If you follow the balanced diet outlined in the food groups pages, here you should not need to worry about iron deficiency. A balanced diet willtypically have Heme and NonHeme iron from the grains, meat and beans and vegetable groups.
Iron rich foods can mainly be found in the following food groups:
- Grains – Typically Non Heme Iron
- Meat and Beans – Typically Heme Iron
- Vegetables (part of the fruit ‘n’ veg group) – Typically Non Heme Iron
Tofu, Quinoa and Soya beans are iron rich foods but they are Non Heme iron. For more specific examples head to the food group pages above.
If you’re a vegetarian most if not all of your iron will be Non Heme (not so great if you have an Indian diet). Obviously 15mg of Non Heme iron won’t be enough since as little as 2% of NonHeme Iron can be absorbed!
So don’t follow the guidelines too strictly. Also consider, pregnant women need around 27mg of Iron per day and that our bodies have precautions to avoid an iron overdose (extremely rare).
I bet you don’t know these facts about Iron (Fe):
Ever noticed kids licking wallpaper or eating mud?
Small children have an instinct that most of us lose as we “know” more. If you see kids do this they are probably low in ironas these very weird sources contain iron!
Iron in water
Iron in water is not necessarily a good thing. Iron in water is likely to be pure, as in (Fe) the iron ore. Iron isoxidised easily (it rusts) when it hits air.
When it does, it forms Iron Oxide and changes colour to an orangey brown. Iron oxide (FeO) can become toxic so it is limited to about 0.2mg/l of water and is used as a water quality indicator.
For this reason iron in water is not a viable source of iron.
Ever tried to give blood and been refused?
Doctors have to be very finicky with the blood they can give to others. The quality of the blood has to be good and oneway to measure this is to measure the iron content and haemoglobin in your blood.
After they take your blood sample, they may tell you that you cannot donate as you have an iron deficiency! They may even give you a prescription for iron supplements!
Just goes to show, you can’t help others till you help yourself.
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