Studies show that low iron is the most common nutritional deficiency documented in the U.S.
Iron plays a vital role in the distribution of nutrients throughout our bodies, and iron deficiency anemia can have very serious consequences for our health. Apart form the ones listed below, low levels of iron also affect the immune system, thus making us more susceptible to illness and infections in general.
Iron Definicency Signs
- rapid heartbeat
- cold hands and feet
- frequent infections
- decreased performance
- unnaturally pale skin
- dark under-eye circle
- brittle and spoon shaped nails (koilonychia)
- cracks in the sides of the mouth (cheilosys)
- hair loss
Iron deficiency is a widespread issue for meat-eaters and vegeterians alike. Women of reproductive age are more prone to iron deficiency.
It is worth keeping in mind that only about 10% of the iron ingested is actually absorbed by our bodies.
There is a significant difference in the absorbtion of animal (heme) and plant-derived (non-heme) iron. To find out more, read Iron in Your Diet
A number of other factors can also affect iron absorbtion:
- Vitamin C can triple the bioavailablity of iron asit assists in the absorbtion process
- Vitamin B12 is indirectly responsible for you blood iron level, so making sure you ingest enough B12 rich products is essential
- L-lysine, an amino acid found mainly in legumes, plays an important part in the absorption of iron
- Phytates, which are the storage form of phosphorus are found in raw legumes and grains and may also hinder the absorption of plant iron. Read more about phytates...
- Calcium supplements and dairy products, if consummed with meals, may be another reason for low iron absorbtion
- Tannins found in most teas, wine and nuts can greatly inhibit iron absorbtion
So low iron levels are not necessarily caused by not enough iron-rich foods in your diet, but may be due to the lack or surplus of one of the above nutrients.