Iron is an essential mineral that we must get from our diet. However, the body does have some iron reserves, mostly in the liver and muscles.
Iron plays an important role in the production of haemoglobin (found in red blood cells), which carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also required to create myoglobin, which helps store oxygen in the muscles. Last but not least, it’s essential to keeping the immune and nervous systems functioning properly.
DID YOU KNOW?
Coffee and tea consumption inhibits iron absorption in the intestines. If you have an iron deficiency, it is recommended that you consume these drinks between meals.
There are two main sources of iron: haem iron, found in animal products, and non-haem iron, found in food derived from plants. Non-haem iron is considerably less easy to absorb than haem iron.
Sources of haem iron are: offal, liver, red meat, white meat and fish.
Sources of non-haem iron are: legumes (lentils, kidney beans, etc.), whole grains, seaweed, oilseeds and chocolate.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION : DEFICIENCIES AND EXCESSES
Iron deficiency may cause anaemia and result in chronic fatigue, shortness of breath on exertion and even cardiovascular issues. Risks of deficiency are primarily seen in people who are pregnant, premenopausal or have intestinal malabsorption disorders. During pregnancy, the body needs more iron due to increased blood volume, the needs of the fœtus, placenta production and blood loss during childbirth. Iron deficiencies are therefore common both during and after pregnancy and can cause severe fatigue. During pre-menopause, irregular cycles and menstrual blood loss can also result in an iron deficiency, which can also cause severe fatigue.
Too much iron is just as harmful as too little. In high doses, iron has oxidative effects, and as a result can contribute to cellular ageing. An excess of iron can also lead to hormonal disorders as well as musculoskeletal and abdominal pain.