This post covers a topic that is of regular concern with many of my clients, especially females. It revolves around a nutrient that is often supplemented, especially during times of pregnancy. That’s right, you guessed it: Iron.
Iron is a particularly well-known trace mineral that has gained a lot of individualized attention from the medical field. Iron is responsible for oxygen transport in the blood and hemoglobin production. It is also needed for adequate energy production and protein metabolism. These are some very important jobs! I would like to point out, however, that it is not any ONE nutrient that vastly effects our overall health. It is the amazing symbiosis of ALL our vital nutrients working together, many of which we have not even discovered yet!
While iron is obviously a very important nutrient, it is no more important than the countless others that we require for survival. Pulling specific nutritonal elements out and putting excess emphasis on them is an all-too-common way to cause nutrient toxicities and deficiencies, as well as a motivator to spend tremendous amounts of money on supplemental pills that are not even FDA-regulated. Eek.
What’s the best plan of action? Nature’s plan, of course. We have been provided with many, many sources of dietary iron that we can enjoy every single day. Take a look at these plant-based sources:
Figs (esp. dried)
Spinach (Popeye wasn’t kidding…)
Look at all these yummy iron-packed raw food choices! To think that the average person can only think of a slab of steak when considering dietary iron intake is a true shame. There is, of course, iron in all red meat, but it is certainly one of our least healthful options for obtaining more of it when we eat.
Iron deficiency can result in fatigue, weakness, and loss of stamina. Headaches, dizziness, constipation, and lower immunity are also possible signs. In females, low iron levels can often result in more painful and heavy menstruation. These and many other symptoms can arise if iron levels are low or if iron is being poorly absorbed. Many factors can decrease iron absorption, like coffee intake, antacid intake, soy protein, phosphates in meats and sodas, low copper levels, excess calcium, and low hydrochloric acid in the stomach.
One of the best ways to increase iron absorption is by including iron sources with Vitamin C sources. Vitamin C in the small intestine helps change any ferric iron into the more easily absorbable ferrous form. Citrus fruits and many brightly colored vegetables contain high amounts of Vitamin C, and therefore greatly aid in adequate iron absorption. (This is why so many of my green smoothie recipes contain fresh oranges!)
My clients know that I am not generally a fan of any type of supplementation. I have many reasons for this, but the primary reason is that when any one nutrient is fragmented and supplemented, it is IMPOSSIBLE to know exactly what else our bodies need, and in what quantities, for proper functioning and utilization. Whole foods were provided for us as absolutely perfect nutrtional packages.