According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, iron plays an essential role in human body functioning.
Iron is involved in delivering oxygen to cells and regulating growth. Therefore, when there is a shortage of iron, oxygen supply to the cells becomes limited, leading to fatigue, poor work performance, pallor and decreased immune function. These symptoms are also known as anemia. However, too much iron is dangerous and can result in toxicity or death.
– Pregnant women (expanding blood volume)
– Infants and toddlers (rapid growth and development)
– Teenage girls/childbearing age (blood loss in menstruation)
– Vegetarians and vegans (inadequate dietary iron intake)
– Gastrointestinal disorders – Celiac and Crohn’s disease (lack of iron absorption)
For those at a high risk for iron deficiency, a visit to the doctor and a registered dietitian is a good idea to ensure that your lab work shows adequate iron levels. A dietitian can also assess if based on your usual dietary intake you are receiving enough iron rich food sources to meet your dietary needs.
The type of iron that is best absorbed by our bodies is called heme iron. Heme iron is found in animal foods like red meats, fish and poultry. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods such as spinach, beans/lentils, fortified cereals.
Iron deficiency is a global concern impacting different age groups. It is important to know which groups are at high risk and ensure that you are receiving adequate dietary iron to prevent anemia. Speak to your dietitian or doctor if you are concerned with low iron.