Around the world over 2 billion people are affected by iron deficiency. Iron is a trace nutrient, and humans need between 8 – 18 milligrams of it every day.
Unfortunately, simply consuming that amount of iron in your diet will not guarantee that you are getting that much. The reason for this is that iron is very difficult to digest and this is even more true if you suffer from gastrointestinal difficulties.
In this article, we will discuss some easy ways that you can be sure of getting enough iron. Read on to learn more.
Add Lean Meat & Organ Meats To Your Diet
The iron that is found in meats, fish and poultry is called heme iron. This type of iron is very easy for your body to digest and absorb.
Organ meats such as heart, kidney and liver are also excellent sources of heme iron, and they are extraordinarily nutritious. In fact, they provide a concentrated source of all nutrients, healthy fats and amino acids.
This is why so many cultures have a tradition of eating organ meats at least weekly.
While it is possible to get iron from veggie sources, it is non-heme iron, which is harder for the body to absorb. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans must be especially careful to follow advice discussed below to ensure the greatest absorption of the iron they consume.
Take Good Care Of Your Digestive Tract
Because iron is difficult to digest, it’s important to have a very healthy digestive tract to make the most of the iron you consume.
Even if your digestive tract is completely healthy, your body will only absorb about 20% of the bioavailable iron contained in the food you eat. This is just one of the many reasons it is very important to always follow good gut care habits such as:
- Eat a diet that is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Drink plenty of pure, filtered (not bottled) water.
- Avoid excessively fatty (i.e. deep fried) foods.
- Exercise daily and manage stress wisely.
- Follow a regular meal schedule.
- Add probiotics to your diet.
- Eat lean meats.
Prepare Your Vegetables Correctly
You should never boil vegetables. This strips them of a great deal of their value in terms of both nutrition and fiber. Steaming is the best way to prepare vegetables to reap the most benefits.
When you steam your vegetables, the bioavailability of the iron they contain is actually improved. Remember to steam lightly! Overcooking is never good.
Cook with Cast-Iron
When you cook with cast-iron pots and pans, the iron in the cookware transfers into your foods. This is especially the case when you cook foods with a high acid content (e.g. tomatoes).
Be Sure You Are Getting Enough Copper
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Linus Pauling Institute, copper is necessary to facilitate the absorption of iron. Studies conducted on mice by the NIH found that mice suffering from copper deficiency were not able to mobilize the iron in their diet correctly.
A lack of copper in the diet causes iron to be excessively stored in selected tissues of the body (i.e. the brain, liver and retina). This causes a twofold problem in that it creates iron overload in these tissues and prevents appropriate use of iron throughout the body.
To avoid copper deficiency, be sure to add these foods to your diet:
- Fermented Soy Foods
- Sesame Seeds
- Goat Cheese
- Raw Kale
It is not necessary or desirable to supplement with copper because excessive copper in your system can cause:
- Stomach upset
- Digestive problems
and even severe conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
Conversely, judiciously adding copper to your diet can help you absorb iron efficiently and avoid problems such as weakened immune system, joint pain and osteoporosis.
Efficient Iron Absorption Depends On Plenty Of Vitamin C
When you take enough vitamin C, you help support your intestines in absorbing iron. It’s a good idea to eat foods that have a high vitamin C content along with foods that are rich in iron.
For example, you might eat a fresh veggie salad with meat to make the most of the iron found in the meat.
Be Sure To Get Plenty of B Vitamins
B vitamins (especially B12 and B9) can actually support the reversal of iron deficiency. Vitamin B12 is found in abundance in red meats, fish and poultry.
Vitamin B9 is found in abundance in green leafy veggies, avocados, oranges and legumes. Luckily, all of these foods are also excellent sources of iron.
Add Blackstrap Molasses to Your Diet
As a general health tonic and a very healthy form of sweetener, blackstrap molasses can’t be beat. This healthy syrup has a long history of helping with iron deficiency and providing a powerful boost of B vitamins.
Antacids contain a great deal of magnesium and calcium, which hamper the absorption of iron in your digestive tract. For this reason, you should not follow-up a meal that is rich in iron by taking antacids. Instead, try one of these natural alternatives.
Many people find that drinking a glass of water spiked with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before a meal aids digestion.
If you have acid indigestion after a meal, try a teaspoon of baking soda stirred into an 8 ounce glass of water.
Stay Away From Cigarette Smoke
There are lots of good reasons to avoid smoking or inhaling secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke depletes all of your nutrient levels including iron. If you smoke, you should stop. If you know people who smoke, you should ask them not smoke around you.
Don’t Stress About Iron
Although multiple tips for getting plenty of iron may seem confusing, it is important that you understand this single concept: If you eat a varied, healthy, whole foods diet made up of lean, high quality protein sources, fresh produce and plenty of fiber, you are very likely to consume plenty of iron.
If you follow healthy lifestyle habits such as:
- Drinking lots of pure filtered water
- Exercising regularly
- Managing stress
- Getting plenty of good rest
- Practicing good gut care
…. your body is likely to absorb the right amount of iron.
Be sure to also avoid habits and products that have a negative impact on your health, such as:
- Excessive Amounts of Alcohol
- Chemical Additives
- Artificial Ingredients
- Unmanaged Stress
- Tobacco Products
All of these things deplete your body’s store of nutrients, weaken your immune system and detract from your overall good health. When you develop and follow a healthy lifestyle, you can feel confident of getting the nutrition you need.