💪🏻 Iron is an essential mineral that is mainly used by our red blood cells as a crucial part of haemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen to cells throughout our body. Iron is also necessary for growth, development, normal cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones and connective tissue.
🥩 Iron is found in two dietary forms. HAEM (or heme) iron is only found in animal foods. It is bound to haemoglobin, and is more easily absorbed and used by our bodies. Lean meat and seafood are great sources of iron.
🥦 Most dietary iron, however, is found in the NON-HAEM (or non-heme) form. This type of iron is found in both animal and plant products. Although it’s not absorbed as well as the haem form, the absorption of non-haem iron can be enhanced if eaten with vitamin C. Good plant sources of iron include fortified grains and cereals, nuts, and beans.
🧠 Iron absorption is very tightly regulated by the body, which can actually control how much or how little iron is absorbed in the GI tract. This is because iron is an essential element that is critical for body processes and function, BUT very high levels of iron in the body are potentially toxic. Hepcidin is a super interesting iron-regulation hormone that is largely responsible for control or absorption.
💁🏽♀️ Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies globally. Women are generally at higher risk of deficiency, as they experience Iron loss each month through menstruation. Vegetarians and vegans also tend to be iron deficient, and need to try optimise iron intake from plant sources.
😴 Iron deficiency leads to inadequate haemoglobin being produced, and a lack of oxygen transport to muscles and tissues. When this happens, you can end up feeling a whole host of negative symptoms, including fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, unexplained headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, and brittle hair.