Iron is the mineral responsible for transporting oxygen from our lungs to our muscles, organs and cell tissue, and returns carbon dioxide back to the lungs. I think we can all safely agree this is a vital function. Low iron intake means slow oxygen consumption for the body. Because oxygen consumption translates into body energy, low levels of iron and oxygen can lead to significant health problems. Here are some symptoms and health concerns that could result from low iron:
- Fatigue, irritability and headaches
- Brittle weak nails
- Difficulty breathing
- Impaired immunity
- Learning disabilities, low attention span and hyperactivity, especially in children
- Decrease in physical activity
While iron can be stored in the body, it is important to consume iron rich foods daily. The best sources for iron include:
- Red meat, fish, shellfish, poultry and eggs
- Vegetables, especially dark leafy greens including spinach, beet greens, kale, collards, chard and dandelion greens, as well as beets, broccoli, sweet potatoes and string beans.
- Fruit including prunes, raisins, figs, dates and strawberries
- Legumes including peas, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas and lima beans
- Nuts including almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pine nuts and pistachios
- Grains including amaranth, quinoa, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, oats, barley and wheat
- Seeds including sunflower, sesame and pumpkin
Consuming foods rich in vitamin C has been linked to increasing iron absorption up to 30%. The exception to this is lemons and limes which have been found to block iron absorption. For an iron packed dish check out my Roasted Beet & Garlic Dressing recipe below. Many of us have an aversion to beets. This is a pretty sneaky and delicious way to get your family and friends to enjoy them. I poured my dressing over spinach, grapefruit, black beans and almonds for extra iron power!
Yields 1 1/2 cup dressing
Rena Unger - Holistic Nutrition Chef & Culinary Educator
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- 1/4 lb roasted beets, I used Chioggia or candy stripe beets, but red beets and golden beets are also great!
- 1 head roasted garlic
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Blend all ingredients together, adjust seasoning and acidity to taste