Our bodies need a lot of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients to thrive and maintain good health. Therefore, regular intake of such vital minerals and vitamins is very important.
One of these essential minerals is iron. Iron is a key mineral which helps produce hemoglobin, red blood cells that are responsible to carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also necessary for healthy hair, nails and skin. So basically maintaining a good amount of iron levels in your blood is key to a healthier body.
Iron levels tend to decrease if there is no source through which the body can extract iron. Our body usually takes the required amount of iron from the food we eat. If a person does not take adequate amounts of iron-containing foods in their diets, they can be at risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Ways to Raise Iron Levels
Both males and females who do not take sufficient amount of iron can suffer from iron deficiency, but women are more at risk because of the increased requirement in pregnancy and regular blood loss during menstruation. Fortunately, iron levels can be restored quickly if people change their diets accordingly. Including food items rich in iron can help drastically elevate iron levels.
Foods Containing Iron
All types of red meat are a rich source of iron. Iron from meat is the best form of iron as it is effectively absorbed by the body. Iron obtained from iron meat is called heme iron, around 35 to 40 percent of heme iron gets absorbed in the body. Beef, venison, lamb, mutton, organ meat (liver, kidneys, heart), veal, fish (tuna, salmon, halibut), seafood (shellfish, oysters, clams, mussels) are all excellent sources of iron. Chicken also contains iron but it has a relatively low amount of it.
Non-Heme Iron Food Sources
Vegetarians are usually the ones who are more likely to have an iron deficiency because they miss out on the main source of iron, meat. Although spinach, legumes, beans, raisins, apricots, and tofu contain iron they are not absorbed in the body as effectively. Only 5 to 20 percent of non-heme iron is absorbed by the body.
Supplements and Injections
Other ways to increase iron levels are through taking iron supplements or iron injections. Iron supplements come in both tablet and liquid forms. Taking supplements with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) improves its absorption. Iron injections are recommended only by doctors in cases of severe iron deficiency anemia, where no other option provides adequate iron.
Factors affecting the Absorption of Iron
Even if you include iron containing foods in your diet regularly, it might still not get into your bloodstream. Some foods hinder the absorption of iron while some improve the absorption rate. Opt to eat iron-rich foods with foods that aid in iron absorption. Avoiding foods that hinder iron absorption may also help significantly increase the iron levels quickly.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C improves the absorption rate of iron. Adding vitamin C enrich foods in your diet along with nonheme iron foods can help extract all the iron and pump it in the blood. Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, and lemons), kiwi and guava are all good sources of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Studies show that 100mg of ascorbic acid elevated the iron absorption by 4.14 times.
- Consumption: Consuming large amounts of iron-containing food at a time might not be as effective as taking it in smaller amounts in intervals. This will lead to better absorption of iron throughout the day.
- Calcium: Calcium might interfere with iron absorption, avoiding taking calcium with or at least two hours before eating iron-rich foods might help you increase your iron levels.
- Tannins: Tannins are compounds found in coffee and tea. Avoid drinking both after or before taking iron as tannins hinder its absorption.