The importance of the Iron in our health
When there is lack of iron, a long list of disorders can be present such as tiredness without an apparent reason and anaemia.
One of the unfortunate ways of knowing and appreciating the importance of the iron in the human organism is through its deficiency. Among other functions, the human body needs iron to produce haemoglobin and myoglobin, proteins in chargeof transporting the oxygen. We find haemoglobin in red cells and myoglobin in the muscles.
Therefore, when there is a lack of iron, a long list of disorders can show up, such as tiredness without apparent reason, anaemia, nails can become fragile, the skin acquires a strong paleness, the concentration capacity starts to lose, the strengthen for intense work becomes resented and in children the school performance starts to falter as well as their appetite and growth. Even discouragement seems to be predominant in all the affected.
In the specific case of the anaemia, it can appear due to blood loss derived from some gastrointestinal diseases but if these extremes are dismissed, we find that lack of iron normally is a nutritional problem, that is the most prevalent in humans.
Types of iron
Through food two types of iron can be obtained: the “haem iron” (from animal origin) and “non haem” (from plant origin).
On one side, the “haem” iron is found in meat and fish. It is better absorbed than “non haem”, however, recent studies associate the consumption of these foods with the risk of suffering from cancer, II diabetes and cardiovascular diseases1
On the other hand, the “non haem iron” is worse absorbed as this absorption can be inhibited or increased depending on the components of the food that we take.
What does improve the absorption of “non haem iron”?
- Including foods rich in Vitamin C in the meal. It is scientifically proved that the intake of Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron. Vitamin C can be found in citrus (orange, mandarin, lemon, grapefruit, etc.), in kiwis, strawberries, peppers, green leafy vegetables (cabbage, chards, Brussel sprouts, spinaches, wild rocket, watercress, lamb´s lettuce, etc), in broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
Add lemon juice in your meals as the organic acids that it has, favour the absorption.
- It helps to minimize the effect of phytic acid (phytates) that hinders the absorption. There are different culinary techniques that can be used for this purpose: like putting the cereal or the legume soaking (removing after the water) or by fermenting the foods (process that is applied to tempeh, the nattō, etc.). It also helps, eating breads made from long fermentation yeasts or acid dough.
- Not taking coffee, tea, red wine or chocolate with the food as the tannins of such foods also hinder the absorption. In any case, if taken, it is better to do it between hours and out of the main meal.
- Not taking calcium supplements in a rich in iron meal, as calcium inhibits the absorption of this mineral.
If we pay attention to the experts, it is obvious that the best treatment against iron deficiency is prevention, hence the importance of paying attention that our diet includes food rich not only in iron but also in all the minerals and vitamins that contribute to enrich the blood.
A pertinent visit to the doctor will indicate us which dietary program is convenient for us to adopt, which exercises we should do and which vitamin and mineral supplements we could complement our diet with.
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