You might think you’re getting enough iron but the truth is you might not be. Even if you consume lots of so called iron rich foods, you might not be getting enough to where it needs to gain your body.
You need iron in your blood because it is a very important part of a thing called a haemoglobin. Haemoglobins are a protein that is used by your body to transport oxygen around in your blood – I don’t need to tell you why that’s so important. There are 200-300 million haemoglobin in each red blood cell and each one needs iron.
There are two types of iron. Heme iron and non-heme iron. The nerdy difference is in their chemical structure. Heme iron FE2+ has 2 positive ions and non-heme iron FE3+ has 3 positive ions. All that really means to you, is heme iron and its 2 ions can carry oxygen while non-heme iron can’t. This makes non-heme iron useless for haemoglobins and getting that important oxygen around your body.
Now you know what iron in your diet is, where do you get it from and why might you not be getting enough?
Heme iron is from animal products and non-heme is from plant products, that simple.
You might be thinking, “I eat tons of veg so I get loads of iron, I’m fine aren’t I?”
Another good question and here’s what you should consider.
Because the non-heme iron in plant products cannot be used in your blood for oxygen transport, your body has to convert it to heme iron. In other words, it has to get rid of one of those pesky +ions to make FE3+ into FE2+. This process means that not all the iron from plants you eat is absorbed by your body, meaning you have to eat more than you think to hit those iron intake levels.
Remember the iron on the food packet or in My Fitness Pal are what’s in the food (allegedly) and not what will end up in your body doing its important work.
Your body can absorb around 15% to 35% of heme iron from animal products and as low as 2% from plant sources. You can absorb close to 20% of the iron from plant sources but it’s extremely variable and I wouldn’t run off thinking every bowl of kale and tofu is keeping you in good stock of iron.
It’s important to point out there are lots of things that reduce your ability to absorb iron and one of them is a thing called phytates, these are found in lots of plant products. Tannins can also reduce iron uptake, these are found in tea, coffee, and wine for example. If your diet is plant based, I recommend getting plenty of iron from green veggies and vegetables high in vitamin C, as vitamin C assists iron absorption.
Iron in cereals
Finally, here’s a scary fact about iron in cereals and other fortified foods. You see many foods claim to be high in vitamins and minerals, but where are these coming from. Check out some breakfast cereals and look at the ingredients, sugar, wheat, glucose syrup, alphabet soup of flavours and colours…..where’s all this vitamin from? The iron is actually very fine IRON in the same form they made your bike from. Yep, you’re eating iron filings! Might as well chew on your bike of suck a metal lolly pop. Scary isn’t it?
If you want to lose weight, become fitter or live a more healthy life then do get in touch with Andrew Louro – our Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach on 020 8316 5316.