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Iron is an essential mineral for growth and development because it helps the production of red blood cells. Unfortunately, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world. As many as two billion people have anemia and yet the signs of iron deficiency can be so mild that it goes unnoticed. Common symptoms of Iron deficiency include weakness, trouble concentrating, dizziness, pale skin, easy bruising and fatigue.
Well, the problem is many people aren’t getting enough iron from their diet. There are two types of iron in foods: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in animal foods and is best absorbed by the body. Good sources include red meat, liver, and turkey.
- Plant foods on the other hand supply non-heme iron, a form that's less well absorbed which is a shame for vegetarians but they are just as important when it comes to getting iron from your diet. Good sources include lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds & spinach.
Cast Iron Skillet
If you want to increase your iron levels, cooking in a cast iron skillet is a must. That said, it is important you specifically incorporate acidic foods such as tomato sauce, lemon juice, and vinegars to help dissolve the iron so that it is absorbed into the rest of the food that’s in your pan. As tempting as the prospect of throwing a slab of steak in the skillet, it won’t do you much good in fortifying it with iron. Use it for stir fries, scrambled eggs, sautéed vegetables and pasta sauces.
The acidity of vitamin C converts iron in food to a form that's readily absorbed, that is why Vitamin C is often found in iron supplements Excellent sources of vitamin C include cantaloupes, citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers and Brussel sprouts.
Interestingly, the foods you can eat influence not just how much iron you consume, but also how well you absorb it. If you're a tea, coffee or wine drinker, drink it away fro meals. They contain tannins, compounds that bind iron & prevent its absorption.
Most people respond well to taking iron supplements, which are ideally taken on an empty stomach to maximize iron absorption. However, Iron is known to cause an upset tummy and if that’s the case for you, then its best when taken with food, especially of course if that food is Vitamin C rich. Make sure to avoid calcium within one to two hours of taking iron supplements as it can impair absorption and most importantly, be sure to take only the recommended dose of iron.
Be patient. It can sometimes take several months of increasing your iron intake before you see a noticeable increase in blood iron levels. Make sure to also see your naturopathic doctor and/or family physician to rule out if there is an underlying cause for your iron deficiency, heavy menstruation, crohn’s disease, and or iron depleting medications are just some reasons why you may not be increasing your levels of this important mineral.