What is iron?
Iron is an essential trace element, it allows the transport of oxygen in the blood and helps to make hemoglobin. It is therefore essential. Unfortunately, many people lack it, especially women who have a heavy period, vegetarians and vegans, those with a disease that causes blood loss (such as Crohn’s disease), pregnant women …. the deficiency is gradually installed, one may not realize it. It is therefore important, if you belong to a risk category, to check your iron level, and to know how to counter this lack.
Recognize iron deficiency
An iron deficiency is felt by different symptoms:
- very rapid shortness of breath
- pulse faster than usual
- pale skin
- cold hands and feet
- headache, dizziness …..
To remember in priority: fatigue and rapid shortness of breath. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor who can prescribe a blood test.
Did you know ? It is also possible to have too much iron in the blood – this medical condition is called hemochromatosis.
Food rich in iron
Before giving a list of foods rich in iron, it is important to distinguish heme iron from non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from animals, non-heme from plants and eggs. What is the difference ? Heme iron is better assimilated by our body, so it has a high “bio-availability” while non-heme iron is much less.
It is considered that heme iron is assimilable at 25% while non-heme is only 5%. This is the reason why vegetarians and vegans are among those “at risk” of iron deficiency. Even if some plants, such as lentils, are very rich in iron, the body will only absorb very little of it.
Foods rich in heme iron:
- Red meat
- black pudding
- offal (calf’s liver, kidneys, etc.)
- certain crustaceans (oysters, shrimps, clams, mussels, octopus, cockles)
- fatty fish (sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon)
Foods rich in non-heme iron:
- legumes (soybeans, lentils, white beans, chickpeas)
- oilseeds (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios)
- spinach, broccoli, chard
- oats and barley
- the muesli
Tips for properly assimilating iron
- Iron needs other nutrients to be properly absorbed, especially vitamin C. So also fill up with vitamin C in your diet (see foods richest in vitamin C).
- Copper is important too, it helps in the absorption of iron. Make sure that your food intake is sufficient.
- If you are a vegetarian or vegan, consider consuming foods rich in iron, especially legumes and oilseeds, every day.
- On the other hand, certain nutrients block the absorption of iron, this is the case with tea (black and green) and coffee. It is therefore best to consume them at least two hours before or after your iron-rich meal. If you are used to drinking a hot drink at the end of the meal, opt for an herbal tea.
Food supplements against iron deficiency
Sometimes adding foods rich in iron is not enough to correct anemia, either because we badly assimilate iron (because of an illness, or by constitution), or because the deficiency is too important. It will therefore be necessary to supplement yourself (while continuing to follow the dietary advice).
There are a large number of dietary supplements for iron. You can for example turn to spirulina. Always check the dosage listed for the product you are purchasing. Prefer tablets of at least 500 mg or take spirulina in ampoule.
Thanks to Nathalie Bleuzen, certified and validated naturopath-Iridologist of the Medoucine network