Today’s post is all about iron! I am personally trying to get my iron levels up a bit, and so I thought it would the perfect time to speak about this important mineral.
Today I am going to go over the importance of adequate iron intake, signs/symptoms of deficiency, the recommended daily intake of iron based on age/sex and then I will discuss ways to ensure adequate intake of iron through diet and supplementation.
ALL ABOUT IRON
Iron is a mineral, and it’s main role is to move oxygen into cells. Iron is a main element of hemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells that specifically carries oxygen from lungs into different parts of the body.
Iron deficiency leads to an inadequate production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body. You may have heard the term ‘anemia’ when you hear about iron deficiency, which is a result of iron deficiency. Anemia is a condition marked by a deficiency of hemoglobin in the blood.
Typical signs of iron deficiency and anemia include feeling fatigued/low energy, pale skin, brittle nails and hair and cold extremities.
Those who are most at risk for developing iron deficiency include menstruating women, vegetarians or those with digestive concerns like IBS or IBD.
If you feel you may be deficient in iron, it is best to speak to your family doctor to get tested. When you get tested for iron, they look at something called serum ferritin and hemoglobin. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it when you need- if you are low in ferritin it is an indicator of low iron levels. Hemoglobin tests measure the amount of hemoglobin in your blood, which can indicate anemia if ferritin levels are also low.
How Much Iron Do You Need?
Based on your sex and age, these are the following recommendations for iron intake per day. These numbers are all to indicate mg/day.
Children, 1-3; 7
Children, 4-8; 10
Children, 9-13; 8
Teens, 14-18; m= 11, f = 15
Adults, 19-50; m = 8, f = 18
Adults, 51+ ; 8
Pregnant women (19+); 27
Breastfeed women (19+); 9
Food Sources of Iron
There are animal and plant based sources of iron. Animal sources contain heme iron, which is a bit easier to digest compared to vegetarian or non-heme forms of iron.
Meat i.e. beef, pork ~3-7 mg/serving
Seafood i.e. muscles, oysters ~ 20 mg/serving
Eggs ~ 2 ,g/serving
Tofu ~ 4mg/serving
Beans/legumes i.e. chickpeas, black beans ~ 7 mg/serving
Green veggies i.e. kale, spinach ~ 4 mg/serving
Seeds i.e. pumpkin seeds ~ 4 mg/serving
If you iron deficient and feel you are not getting enough iron through your diet, you can talk to you health care practitioner about potential supplementation. Do not start a supplementation without speaking to your healthcare provider first!
I am personally a bit low in iron and along with focusing on high-iron foods, I decided to continue with an iron supplement (I typically take one on and off). I am currently trying the MegaFood Blood Builder Formula. MegaFood is a whole food supplement company, which means they use real foods ingredients (i.e. vitamin C comes from oranges). I like that this company works closely with the farmers to ensure a high quality product. I have tried MegaFood supplements before, and really liked them.
The Blood Builder formula is an iron supplement, that contains 26 mg of elemental iron. It contains Vitamin C ( which helps with absorption of iron), along with folate and B12. Iron supplementation is known for having gastrointestinal side effects such as constipation and nausea, but this supplement has great feedback that it does not contribute to gastrointestinal side effects. I also like that there was a clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine that used this specific supplement in a controlled environment to study improvements on iron levels, along with side effects. Iron levels significantly increased, with little to no side effects noted, which is pretty cool!
I encourage you to find a supplement that works for you, as this is often quite individualized. I have tried a bunch of different iron supplements, and I am looking forward to seeing how this supplement works, and if taking it helps to increase my iron levels. I will keep you posted!
Now, I would love to hear from you! Have you tried to increase iron levels before? What worked for you and what didn’t?