Iron is a mineral that is essential to the health and functioning of the body. It is involved in various bodily functions including the transport and storage of oxygen, energy production and DNA synthesis. It is found in haemoglobin (present in red blood cells) and myoglobin (present in muscles).
The body is unable to produce iron. This is why it is so important to get it through the foods we eat. The richest source of iron is liver, but it is also found in oysters, seafood, kidneys, heart, red meat, poultry, fish, seeds and nuts, green vegetables, whole wheat, legumes, prune juice and dried fruit.
Spinach is not a good source of iron! This myth was propagated due to an error in a report which stated that spinach had 10 times more iron than it actually does...
Vegetarians are at a greater risk of developing iron deficiency since their diets exclude certain iron-rich foods. Additionally, iron from vegetable sources and eggs are not absorbed as well as iron from animal sources. To improve the absorption of vegetable iron, it is recommended that a source of vitamin C (about 75 mg) be added to each meal. Drinking tea with meals is not recommended as it reduces iron absorption. Coffee does not have quite the same effect.
Below is a chart that will help you select foods that are high in iron.
|Approximate Iron Content|
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
Recommended average daily nutrient intake that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97 to 98%) healthy individuals in each age and gender group. The RDA should only be used as a guide for daily individual intake.
* Until menstruations resume.
Iron deficiency anemia is caused by an insufficient iron intake. The most common symptoms associated with anemia are fatigue, pallor, lack of energy and headache.
Deficiency may be caused when dietary intake or absorption of iron is insufficient, when the body needs more iron or when the body experiences a significant drop in iron through heavy menstrual periods, for example. If such is the case, an iron supplement can be prescribed by a physician and medical monitoring is recommended. Increasing one's dietary intake of iron is also important.
Although rare, excess iron can lead to diarrhea, gastric pain, fever and nausea.
Since the foods we eat usually provide the body with enough iron stores, supplements are not necessary unless diagnosed with anemia.
When used to treat anemia, iron supplements can cause gastric irritation and constipation. They can also discolour stool and urine, making them brown or black. Liquid supplements can also stain teeth.
Absorption is optimal when the product is taken on an empty stomach. Taking it with food however, increases tolerance. The absorption of inorganic and vegetable iron is better when taken with vitamin C. A dose of 200 mg for 30 mg of elemental iron is recommended.
Iron supplements must be stored in a safe place. Iron poisoning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in children.
Watch what you eat. Diet has a significant impact on health!
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.