Iron is needed for a number of complex processes that continuously take place in the body such as the transportation of oxygen, called haemoglobin.
The role of iron
Iron is involved in the conversion of blood sugar to energy. The immune system, which is dependent on iron for its efficient functioning and physical and mental growth requires adequate iron levels. This is particularly important in childhood and pregnancy where the developing baby is solely dependent on its mother’s iron supplies.
The body loses iron through urination and sweating. If iron reserves are low, normal haemoglobin production slows down, which means the transport of oxygen is reduced. This can result in symptoms such as tiredness, dizziness, lowered immunity or reduced performance, particularly in athletes.
There are two types of dietary iron. The first one is found in animal products and is more easily absorbed by the body because it contains haemoglobin. The other doesn’t contain haemoglobin, so the body does not absorb it as efficiently. Since the body cannot produce iron itself, we need to make sure we consume sufficient amounts of iron as part of our normal daily diets.
Vitamin C has been proven to aid in the absorption of iron. Other foods rich in iron include seafood, liver, squash, beef, lamb, dark leafy greens, green peas, Bok Choy, spinach kale, broccoli, beans and pulses.
Iron supplements can also be a source of additional iron intake, but it’s important to contact a physician if you’re planning on going down the supplement route.