Island News

Iron-the body’s gold

Written By : Varsha Asrani INDIAN WEEKENDER. A common known problem among people from the Indian sub-continent is the deficiency in iron. Quite a few of my clients complain of
18 Dec 2010 12:00

Written By : Varsha Asrani INDIAN WEEKENDER. A common known problem among people from the Indian sub-continent is the deficiency in iron.
Quite a few of my clients complain of this and I have also received a couple of requests to write about iron.
Iron, also known as the body’s gold, is one of the most important nutrients for our health and wellbeing. Irrespective of the age, iron is required to perform basic functions in our body like producing red blood cells which helps carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body.
Iron ensures our body obtains and maintains peak energy levels, optimal brain function and a strong immune system.
When iron levels run low, our body is unable to produce the required red blood cells, we thus experience iron-deficiency commonly known as anaemia.
Anaemia or iron-deficiency usually is identified with a pale colour, irritability, weakness, shortness of breath, coldness, pins and needles etc.
Over a period of time, anaemia can affect the immune system and brain function if not treated.
During deficiency the body uses its stores and as these diminish, one may start to feel tired and lethargic.
A deficiency in iron commonly occurs if one has a low intake of iron rich foods and can be more prominent in vegetarians.
An adolescent, young woman or female athletes are more prone to iron-deficiency due to their body type and lifestyle patterns.
Other common reasons of iron loss from our body could be heavy menstruation, pregnancy, eating an iron deficient diet, excessive blood loss, gastrointestinal disorders or ulcers, infections or intensive sports activity.
A regular haemoglobin check is recommended if you fall in any of these categories and a consultation with a health professional or a general practitioner is strongly recommended.
Our food contains iron in two forms – haem (found in meats) and non-haem (found in plant foods).
The human body is able to absorb iron, four times more in the haem form compared to the non-haem form, however vitamin C present in citrus fruits and vegetables can enhance the absorption of the non-haem form.
Vegetarians should ensure to add vitamin C to their diet to increase iron absorption.
Some good food sources of iron are dates, poha (rice flakes), jaggery, raisins commonly and easily available at Indian food outlets.
At breakfast having a citrus fruit like orange, kiwifruit or vitamin C rich fruit juice can help with iron absorbtion.
Adding some lime juice to our meals can also do the trick. Other good non-haem sources of iron are legumes, whole grains, iron fortified cereals, nuts and green leafy vegetables.Vitamin C is present in tomatoes, broccoli, kiwi fruit and capsicum.
Rich sources of iron which provide the haem form are chicken, red meat, some shellfish and organ meats like liver and kidney.
Young children 6 months onwards, preschoolers and school-going children, teenaged girls, pregnant and young women have higher needs of iron and it is essential to talk to your health and medical professional or a dietitian for advice.

Varsha Asrani is a New Zealand-registered dietician. For any questions, suggestions or views please email her on info@varshaasrani.com.



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