Iron is essential to our bodies. It’s the key ingredient in things like hemoglobin and myoglobin, proteins that store and carry oxygen throughout our bodies.
So yeah, iron is pretty important since we need oxygen to live and such.
There are two types of dietary iron – heme (found in meat) and non-heme (found in both animals and plants).
“Heme iron is well absorbed by the body,” says Agnès de Sesmaisons-Lecarré, a member of the European Food Safety Authority’s nutrition unit. “By contrast, the absorption of non-heme iron is strongly influenced by interactions with other meal components.” For example, the muscle tissue in meats or foods rich in vitamin C, like tomatoes and oranges, can increase that absorption.
But what happens to the body when there’s a lack of either dietary iron?
Low intake or absorption of iron can lead to anemia, which is a lack of healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. This can result in fatigue, feeling cold, headaches, irritability, dizziness, and shortness of breath. If left unaddressed, anemia can lead to heart problems over the long term.
The best way to keep those iron reserves plentiful is by food. Strong iron sources include meat, fish, egg yolks, beans, nuts and dark-green vegetables. You can boost your intake even more by – no joke – cooking in a cast iron pan. Yes, microscopic pieces from your skillets will be a part of that meal that your body can use. Iron supplements are another possibility, but remember it’s to add to a nutritious diet rich in iron, not a substitute for it.
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