Why is Iron important?
Iron is essential for our bodies. Iron is needed to produce haemoglobin, the protein found in the red blood cells that carries oxygen in your body and gives blood its red colour.
Our cells need iron to survive, but our bodies can’t make iron - so we need to get it from our food.
Iron deficiency can develop when iron intake or iron absorption rates are unable to meet the iron demands of the body.
Symptoms can include:
* Poor concentration
* Intolerance to exercise.
Iron deficiency has several stages of severity and can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.
Women need higher iron stores to account for blood loss during their monthly cycle, and even more during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Other groups that are at higher risk of iron-deficiency anaemia include:
People who have undergone major surgery or trauma
People with gastrointestinal diseases such as coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis or active stomach ulcers
People who have undergone bariatric surgery
People who do not eat meat including vegans and vegetarians
The Australian Recommended Dietary Intake (per day) is:
* Children aged 1-3 9mg
* Children aged 4-8 10mg
* Children aged 9-13 8mg
* Boys 14-18 11mg
* Girls 14-18 15mg
* Women 19-50 18mg
* Pregnant women 27mg
* Men 19 and over 8mg
* Women 50 + 8mg
There are plenty of iron-rich foods that can help our bodies maintain healthy iron stores:
* Beans, lentils, chickpeas and soybeans
* Red meat
* Liver (pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, beef)
* Molluscs (oysters, clams, scallops)
* Egg yolks
* Dark, leafy greens (spinach, collards)
* Dried fruit (prunes, raisins)
* Iron-enriched cereals and grains (check the labels for high iron)
* Nuts & seeds
* Dark chocolate (our favourite!)
Iron in food sources comes in two forms: haem iron and non-haem iron. Haem iron is significantly more readily absorbed than non-haem iron, and haem iron can only be found in animal sources such as meats (either red, white or seafood). Plant sources only contain non-haem iron, therefore people who don’t eat meats should consult their GP to discuss the need for iron testing and/or supplementation.
If you suspect you may have an iron deficiency you should schedule a check up with your GP. They may recommend an infusion, iron injections or over-the-counter supplement to boost your iron stores.
Your friendly Ramsay Pharmacist can help you choose the best supplement for your circumstances. Be sure to speak with us today!