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August Wellness Blog: The Importance of Iron

Written by Juanita

Blood is like your body’s superhighway. It carries nutrients and oxygen to everything from your heart and brain to your muscles and skin. Blood is composed of four components: plasma; red blood cells; white blood cells; and platelets. Hemoglobin is the iron-rich protein inside red blood cells. It enables the red blood cells to carry oxygen and gives blood its red color.

Hemoglobin’s key function is the facilitation of gases, oxygen and carbon dioxide as the transportation is happening; so typically, the hemoglobin holds the gases while the red blood cell is carrying the hemoglobin and transporting it to the different tissues in the body. Red blood cells also remove carbon dioxide from your body, bringing it to the lungs for you to exhale.

Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and have a life span of about 90 — 120 days. If a person lacks sufficient iron, the formation of red blood cells is impaired. When the body experiences low iron and hemoglobin, this essentially means there are not enough red blood cells in the body.

"Blood is like your body's superhighway. It carries nutrients and oxygen to everything from your heart and brain to your muscles and skin."

Iron is a mineral the body uses to make hemoglobin. This nutrient is found in the foods we eat. Low iron levels may cause you to feel tired; and extremely low iron levels may cause damage to organs. Iron deficiency is most often caused by insufficient intake through diet. However, in some cases, a deficiency of B-6 and/or B-12 can be the underlying cause of low iron levels that can lead to anemia. Anemia is not a disease, but a symptom of deficiency in the formation or production of red blood cells.

70% of your body's iron is contained in hemoglobin. Therefore, in order to boost your hemoglobin levels, it is important to eat more iron-rich foods. This will increase red blood cells, blood count and keep your body functioning normally, protecting against iron deficiencies.

The following foods are among the highest in iron content, with over 5 mg of iron per average serving:

  • Kidney and pinto beans

  • Black strap molasses

  • Liver from organically raised animals

  • Rice bran

  • Raw beet greens

  • Mustard greens

  • Lentils

  • Dried prunes and prune juice

Typically, iron-rich foods are colorful and deeply pigmented. Some other examples of good sources of iron include:

  • Nettles

  • Chlorophyll

  • Chard

  • Dates

  • Eggs

  • Lean beef and pork

  • Raisins

  • Shrimp

  • Spinach

  • Whole grain breads

  • Red meat

  • Poultry

  • Peas

  • Chickpeas

  • Beans

  • Fish

Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron. Vitamin C supplements assist in converting iron that is poorly absorbed, such as plant-based sources of iron, into a form that is easier to absorb. This is especially useful for people on a meat-free diet, as meat is a major source of iron. The reasons for its action are twofold: (1) the prevention of the formation of insoluble and nonabsorbent iron compounds and (2) the reduction of ferric to ferrous iron, which seems to be a requirement for the uptake of iron into the mucosal cells.

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