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Iron: The nutrition connection


1st Jan 2015 Health Conditions

Iron: The nutrition connection

The human body recycles iron to make new red blood cells. Because the body absorbs only a small percentage of dietary iron, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) calls for consuming more iron than the amount lost: 8 mg per day for men and postmenopausal women, 18 mg for women under 50, and 27 mg for pregnant women. Here are some general dietary recommendations to boost iron levels

Any Old Iron?

Consume as much iron from foods as possible. The best sources of iron are animal products—meat, fish, poultry, and egg yolks. The body absorbs much more of the heme iron found in these foods than the nonheme iron from plant sources, such as green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, soy and other legumes, and iron-enriched breads and cereals.


A Little Help from Vitamin C

Boost iron absorption by eating vitamin C–rich foods, especially if you're vegetarian. Plant sources of iron are poorly absorbed by the body. Adding a vitamin C–rich food, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, or red pepper, to a plant-based meal can enhance absorption of nonheme iron.


The 50 Pluses

If you're over 50, get your B12. Up to one-third of older adults produce inadequate amounts of stomach acid and can no longer properly absorb B12 from food. People over 50 may have to meet their needs by consuming foods rich in B12, such as meats and egg yolks, or by taking a supplement containing B12.


Tea Time

Avoid drinking tea during meals. Tea contains natural compounds called tannins, which bind with iron and make it unavailable for absorption. Drink tea between meals to enjoy its health benefits.


Iron Preventors Beware!

Watch for foods that prevent absorption of iron. Oxalates found in spinach, rhubarb, Swiss chard, and chocolate as well as phytates in nuts and bran cereal can prevent the body from using iron.


Supplimenting your Iron intake

Avoid iron supplements, unless directed by a physician. Unless you have had a blood test that confirms iron deficiency, excess iron can be dangerous.