You may have heard that you can get iron by eating certain foods of various kinds, because these foods, in addition to their naturally containing iron, help to absorb this element in a way that makes the body take all its necessary needs without deficiency.
Come with us to learn about these necessary foods that help absorb iron with an indication of the importance of this element to our body and the complications that can occur as a result of its deficiency:
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Foods that help absorb iron
Iron is an essential mineral that the human body needs to function healthily and perform some functions that are closely related to its need to keep the body in good health, so it is important to get enough iron from your daily diet.
The role of iron in the body:
The human body needs iron to make two types of vital proteins: hemoglobin and myoglobin. About 70% of the iron in the body is found in these two proteins:
- Hemoglobin, which is a protein found inside red blood cells, is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the various tissues of the body.
- The myoglobin , which is another protein in the muscle cells which binds iron and oxygen to store the oxygen in the muscles of consumption when you need it , where oxygen is used when you are using your muscles and is linked to hemoglobin.
Iron is also used for:
- Production of proteins that are involved in collagen production or some neurotransmitters for respiration, cell metabolism and energy production.
- Contribute to the proper functioning of the immune system.
- 6% of the iron in the body is used to make proteins, and the remaining quarter of the iron in the body (about 25%) is stored in the form (ferritin) in liver cells or other body cells or circulates in the bloodstream.
How to increase iron absorption from food
It is interesting that the food we eat not only affects the iron intake but also plays a role in the absorption of this mineral in the body because once the body absorbs the iron element, it uses it as a stone to build hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen throughout the body.
Daily intake of iron:
Importantly, the daily recommended intake of iron is 7 to 18 mg for normal people and up to 27 grams for pregnant women.
The amount of iron that each person needs daily varies with age and gender.
A proper diet rich in iron is essential for blood supply and elimination of iron deficiency in the blood.
Foods that help absorb iron
In cases where not all types of iron are absorbed equally, some foods can increase the body’s ability to absorb this mineral, including:
Foods rich in vitamin C:
Vitamin C helps increase the body’s absorption of iron as this nutrient receives and stores iron in a way that is easily absorbed into the body.
Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruit), dark leafy vegetables, watermelon, strawberries, and peppers.
Citrus juice or eating foods rich in vitamin C along with iron-rich foods can also increase absorption of this mineral.
And people who follow a vegetarian diet can increase the proportion of iron intake by eating vegetables that contain vitamin C in their meals.
Meat, fish and poultry:
Meat, fish and poultry are good sources of iron, in addition to helping stimulate the absorption of iron when present from other nutrients. Studies have shown that adding fish, beef or chicken to a cereal-based meal has improved iron absorption by several times.
These elements are also considered the best form of iron because they help you absorb up to 40% of it because they contain hemoglobin.
Foods containing vitamin A and beta-carotene:
Vitamin A plays a major role in maintaining healthy vision, as well as healthy bone growth and strengthening the immune system.
Beta-carotene, which is an orange-red pigment, is found in plants in general and in fruits, as this pigment can be converted into vitamin A in the human body.
Good food sources include vitamin A and beta-carotene (sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach, squash, kale, peaches, oranges, red peppers, and apricots).
Groups at risk of iron deficiency
Usually the body loses a small amount of iron through urine and faeces, but the most important form of iron loss in men is hidden and undiscovered bleeding through the digestive system, and blood loss in women during menstruation.
One of the most common causes of iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is that many people in the world have it. A person with anemia may experience a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, headache, cold sensitivity, shortness of breath when performing simple tasks, and from People exposed to iron deficiency:
- pregnant women.
- Infants and young children.
- Women who experience heavy monthly bleeding during their menstrual cycle.
- People who donate a lot of blood (approximately once every eight weeks).
- People with chronic gastrointestinal diseases.
- People with a history of cancer or gastrointestinal surgery.
- In addition to a variety of vegetarian diets, they are more likely to develop iron deficiency and anemia.
In addition, iron deficiency can lead to poor attention span and impaired mental function.
Iron deficiency in early childhood is associated with lower IQ.
The dangers of excessive iron
Iron overdose can rarely cause side effects, as there is usually an excess of iron in the body after improper use of iron supplements and iron pills.
Consequently, excessive iron consumption over time may lead to:
- The formation of large reserves of this mineral in the liver or other tissues and as a result of this can lead to diabetes and heart disease, and high doses of iron can lead to poisoning, severe liver damage, coma and death.
- Early symptoms include constipation, indigestion, abdominal pain, vomiting, and nausea.
- It should be noted that iron supplements interact with many medications, so you should never take these supplements without consulting your doctor or pharmacist.
Iron deficiency complications
Among the most important complications of iron deficiency:
- If you do not eat foods rich in iron and vitamin C in your diet every day, you may have low levels of iron in your blood and this can lead to iron deficiency anemia, especially during a woman’s menstrual period, as your body needs more iron.
- And iron deficiency anemia can cause problems with your child’s growth and development.
- And if you suffer from iron deficiency anemia, it can cause other health problems.
If you do not have enough iron in your diet, this will not happen in the short term. Rather, the body begins to consume the iron stored in the blood, liver, spleen and bone marrow, and with the persistence of iron deficiency in the diet, the following occurs:
- The red blood cells get smaller and the hemoglobin levels in them decrease.
- The amount of oxygen transferred from the lungs to the tissues is reduced.
- Lack of oxygen also leads to a lack of energy, a feeling of constant fatigue, difficulty regulating body temperature, inability to perform daily activities and exercises, and problems with memory and concentration.
Avoid these foods because they prevent iron absorption
Just as some foods effectively help absorb and improve iron, there are some foods that may interfere with iron absorption and prevent the absorption of this important mineral:
Foods containing phytates:
Phytic acid is found in foods such as nuts, legumes, soybeans, and whole grains. Small amounts of this acid can reduce iron absorption dramatically. However, the negative effects of this acid can be countered by eating foods that help absorb iron, such as meat and vitamin C.
Foods that contain polyphenols:
Polyphenols are present in varying amounts in plant foods and juices, including tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables, and in some pills, and when consuming these foods or drinks that contain polyphenols, especially after meals, it prevents iron absorption.
But to counteract the negative effects of polyphenols, do not drink tea or coffee immediately after meals and do so after two hours.
However, some dark green vegetables and leaves contain oxalates, which can prevent iron absorption so instead of relying on vegetables for iron you should use different sources.
Calcium is an essential mineral and is important for bone health, but there is evidence that shows that calcium is one of the elements that inhibit iron absorption, regardless of its natural source or dietary supplement.
Also, about 165 mg of calcium in cheese or milk or as a supplement can prevent iron absorption by about 50 to 60%. This is a concern because calcium intake is necessary for women at risk of iron deficiency and for protecting their bones and for children as well.
Therefore, foods rich in calcium should not be consumed with foods high in iron in order not to prevent iron absorption.
In addition, calcium and iron supplements should be taken at different and frequent periods of the day.
In addition to paying attention to these foods in order not to prevent iron absorption:
- Avoid some dairy products that can interfere with iron absorption.
- Avoid these foods that can impair iron absorption as well: such as foods rich in gluten, and foods made with barley, oats, wheat, or buckwheat.
- Foods that contain oxalic acid, such as parsley, chocolate, and peanuts.
Tips for getting more iron in your diet:
The best way to add iron to your diet is to eat more iron-rich foods. However, the following strategies can maximize your iron intake:
- Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals, but rather separately from meals that contain iron-rich foods.
- Babies over the age of one year need about 24 ounces of cow’s milk per day, but when children drink a lot of milk, they may eat less iron-rich foods, which may lower the iron level in the blood, but breastfeeding helps absorb the iron in the blood.
- It is recommended that you follow a mixed diet of red or white meat and plant-based sources with fortified breads or grains.
- Avoid calcium-rich foods that are high in content.
- Eat iron-rich foods along with foods rich in vitamin C.
- Cook food for shorter periods so that the food does not lose nutrients throughout the entire cooking period.
- It is also preferable to cook food by steaming, in the oven, grilling, boiling and avoiding frying so that the foods retain the nutrients.
- Do not take iron supplements arbitrarily without consulting a doctor.
Iron is essential for survival and a healthy life. To prevent iron deficiency, people at risk of iron deficiency may need to take iron supplements in the doses prescribed by their doctor.
This article is only cultural information and cannot be a substitute for consulting a specialist for a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment prescription.