Iron is an essential mineral. This means that the body cannot make any on its own, and it must be introduced from external sources such as food and supplements.
Iron is used in the bloodstream to transport oxygen to all corners of the body, keeping us feeling energetic and ensuring a healthy immune system.
People who aren’t obtaining enough iron from food may feel tired, anxious, irritated, have a hard time concentrating, suffer from low energy and poor resistance to infections. They may find themselves gaining weight as a result of low tolerance for physical activity and lack of willpower to withstand food temptations.
There are two types of iron, and they come from different food sources.
1. Heme iron – this iron is absorbed well by your body. You can find it in foods like red meat, poultry, seafood, offal (e.g. kidneys, liver) – food from animal sources.
2. Non-heme iron – this iron can be found in legumes, whole grain breads and cereals, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and eggs.
Even though the amount of iron found in plant based foods might be similar to that found in animal products, it is not absorbed as well in the body. For comparison: 15-35% of heme iron is absorbed by our digestive system, while only 2-20% of non-heme iron is absorbed.
There are additional factors that can inhibit or enhance the absorption of non-heme iron…