Last week I shared the nutrients Vitamin C, D, K , Calcium and Magnesium that rely on each other to help them be absorbed and to work efficiently.
This week it is the turn of Iron and Vitamin C and also Vitamin B2 to ensure that the mineral is absorbed efficiently.
There are actually several types of Anaemia but for his post I will just look at Iron deficiency Anaemia. If you would like to know more about this condition you will find more information in this post. Anaemia, Oxygen Distribution and Waste Disposal
Iron deficiency Anaemia is one of the most common types and is usually associated with women. Mostly in pregnancy, but it can also affect women who have suffered heavy periods throughout their reproductive lives. It can also be the result of injuries or chronic bowel conditions where here is a slow but steady loss of blood. It can also be the result of a diet lacking in iron rich foods.
What symptoms would someone experience if they were anaemic?
People will vary with the symptoms depending on the severity of the problem.
- Generally people will begin to feel very tired. As we have said the body is being deprived of one of its main energy sources – oxygen.
- Some may experience rapid heartbeats – perhaps find themselves getting breathless when they have not really over exerted themselves.
- There might be some chest pain associated with the symptoms – headaches or dizziness.
- Hands and feet can become numb and very cold.
- Nausea, causing loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Bleeding gums and a yellowish tinge to the skin and around the eyes.
Iron is vital to the health of the entire human body and is present in every cell. It is part of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of the blood, and normally the body would contain around 4 grams of iron.
Iron is also a component of myoglobin, which distributes and helps muscle cells store oxygen. Without iron the Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP the fuel we run on) could not be produced and long term this is very serious.
A deficiency can occur because you have not taken in sufficient iron through your diet but it is also a vicious circle. The more blood you lose the more red blood cells you lose and therefore iron. Women who sustain a lot of blood loss each month, are at a high risk as they have increasingly less red blood cells, which will lead to an iron deficiency over time.
Food sources for iron
Dietary iron is found in two forms, haem iron and non-haem iron. (Heme in US). Haem iron, which is the most absorbable, is found only in animal flesh as it is taken from the haemoglobin and myoglobin in animal tissue. Non-haem iron is found in plant foods.
Although there are iron rich plant foods they come with an additional element called phytates which bind to the iron and inhibit its absorption by the body. This means that vegetarians in particular need to consume Vitamin C rich foods at the same time as it disrupts the action of the phytates, releasing more iron into the body.
Iron (non-haem) rich plant food sources include whole grains and fortifed cereals, watercress, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, legumes, Sweet Potatoes tofu, pumpkin seeds, and tofu. Strawberries, tomatoes,watermelon, prunes and dried apricots.
Iron (Haem)rich protein sources include:
The best food source of vitamin C is all fresh, raw fruit and vegetables. Avoid buying prepared peeled and cut vegetables and fruit, as they will have lost the majority of their vitamin C. If you prepare juices at home, always drink within a few hours preferably immediately. Do not boil fruit and vegetables, it is better to eat raw whenever possible preserving all their nutrient content, but at the very least only steam lightly.
Researchers believe that taking in adequate amounts of Vitamin C is the best private health insurance that you can take out.
The best food source is of course fresh fruit and vegetables but the highest concentrations are in Blackcurrants, blueberries, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruit, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, oranges, parsley, peppers, rosehip, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.
The role of B2 in the uptake of iron (more information in the next couple of weeks when I will cover the vitamin in more detail).
Research into anaemia has highlighted the role of B2 in the body’s inability to manufacture red blood cells. There are two areas that would appear to be particularly critical. One is the vitamin’s role in mobilising iron from storage to the cells and secondly that a deficiency prevents the efficient absorption of iron.
Vitamin B2 is a vitamin that is essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) without which we would be totally lacking in energy. It also works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins, which helps keep us clear of infection.
The vitamin is water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body except in very small amounts so needs to be replenished from diet every day.
Dairy products are one of the main sources of B2 but there are adequate levels in other foods too. There is some articles on the possibility that dairy products might inhibit the uptake of Iron but because it is also the best source of B2 I feel that may be misleading. The same applies to eggs…
Other food sources for B2
Almonds, Beef or Lamb or other dark meats, oily fish such as mackeral, eggs, brown mushrooms, sesame seeds and spinach.
Combining iron, vitamin C and B2 rich foods in your meals to ensure efficient manufacture of red blood cells, mobilising iron from the stores to the cells and healthy absorption.
Here are some ideas on how you can combine these nutrients on a daily basis
Breakfast – wholegrain toast with a poached egg and grilled tomato – add a glass of orange juice for Vitamin C.
Or a glass of orange juice, porridge with milk and black or blueberries.
Lunch – Homemade butternut squash and red pepper soup, slice of whole grain bread and a bowl of strawberries.
Snack – a handful of almonds.
Dinner – Grilled Tuna, Chicken, steak with jacket potato and a watercress, cucumber, tomato salad, followed by a bowl of fruit salad in apple juice.
The same applies should you be considering taking any supplements that contain iron. If you are taking tablets then drink a glass of high concentrated Vitamin C fruit juice.. Or like I do, take a liquid form in a glass of juice. Avoid drinking tea within an hour of taking iron as it inhibits the absorption.
©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health – 1998 – 2020
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020
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