Iron is considered a metal that is needed in our bodies for oxygen transport to tissues and plays a role in protecting the cells from oxidation (“Iron”). Iron is an essential micronutrient and is one of the most common deficiencies in the world. Here is what you should know about iron and ways to incorporate it into your diet!
The table below demonstrates the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for iron (“Iron”). It is important to note the increase in iron needs for females after 14 years of age, as well as the increased needs during pregnancy. Females need more iron due to monthly blood loss from their menstrual cycle. Iron is also needed to support a growing fetus, which is why pregnant women’s iron needs are increased.
There are two divisions in food sources of iron, including heme food sources and non-heme food sources. Heme iron has a higher bioavailability, meaning that it is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron (“Iron”). Heme iron food sources include animal meat and seafood. Non-heme iron food sources include whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens. Vitamin C food sources, such as oranges and strawberries, enhance nonheme iron absorption, so it is important to consume non-heme iron food sources with vitamin C (“Iron”).
Iron deficiency is a very common deficiency seen in the general population. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness and lightheadedness, cold hands and feet, and pale skin (“Iron-Deficiency Anemia”). There are multiple blood tests that confirm iron deficiency, including low ferritin, low serum iron, high total iron-binding capacity, and low transferrin saturation (Bouri, Sonia, and John Martin). Thankfully, it is treatable with either dietary supplements and/or iron infusions depending on the severity of the deficiency. It is important to discuss treatment options with your primary care physician.
Bouri, Sonia, and John Martin. “Investigation of iron deficiency anaemia .” Clinical medicine (London, England) vol. 18,3 (2018): 242-244. doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.18-3-242
“Iron”. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. US Department of Health and Human Services. Published April 5, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/#h7
“Iron-Deficiency Anemia”. National Institutes of Health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Published March 24, 2022. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/anemia/iron-deficiency-anemia#What-are-the-symptoms-of-iron-deficiency-anemia?