Iron: Not Just for Pressing the Clothes

Function: Iron plays an important role in many body functions including proper immune function, brain development, temperature regulation, energy metabolism and work performance.

Bioavailability: Iron in foods occurs in different forms and therefore differs in its ability to be absorbed and used by the body. The most readily absorbable form of iron is found in animal protein sources such as meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Heme iron is assisted in its absorption into the body by a protein factor in the animal sources that also facilitates the absorption of the non-heme form of iron found in vegetable and grain products.

Deficiency: Many people with mild iron deficiency experience no obvious problems other than vague symptoms of tiredness, headache, irritability, and depression. Iron is the carrier of oxygen in the blood and transports carbon dioxide wastes to the lunges for removal from the body.

Iron in Food: Because iron in meat, fish, poultry and eggs is mostly in the heme form, it is most easily absorbed and used by the body. Non-heme iron sources such as grains and vegetables often supply greater quantities of iron but only about 5% of this iron is absorbed. Vitamin C rich foods assist in the absorption of iron in food sources while calcium rich foods and supplements interfere with iron absorption. Polyphenols found in coffee and tea are also known to interfere with iron absorption.

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