Do you have questions about Iron?

Apr 19, 2017

Iron is an essential component of our diet. There are two forms of iron that are found in the diet; heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron, found in meat sources, is more readily available for the body to use. Non-heme iron comes from plant sources and is harder for the body to utilize. Iron in our diets is absorbed in the intestines.

Iron provides a variety of benefits including; red blood cell health, brain function, healthy skin, hair and nails. A deficiency of iron results in iron anemia and is the most common nutrition deficiency in the U.S., Canada and many other countries around the world. The segments of the population that are most at risk for anemia are young children, pregnant women and older adults. Deficiencies can cause thinking and developmental issues. In addition, people with low levels of iron in their diet may notice an increased prevalence of low energy, increased mood changes, inability to concentrate and an increased level of headaches.

In a plant based diet, it would take around two times the amount of vegetables to achieve the same level of iron as what is available in a single serving of meat. Lindsay Chichester, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, talks about the best way to maximize the amount of iron absorption, “You can pair meat and plant sources together and we call it bioavailability or ‘the meat effect’ and that is a nice way to pull the heme and non-heme iron into our bodies.” Additional, the combination of meat and plants in the diet aids in the absorption of zinc.

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