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Iron deficiency

Keeping up the iron balance with the right food while stuck at home

Most of us are aware how deficiency or over-consumption of various essential elements has noticeable after effects on human health. There are several features that determine the benefits and negative effects of any element in human body. This includes but not limited to metabolism, absorption, and other major interactive physiological processes.

Iron is one of the essential elements for almost all living organisms as it contributes in carrying the metabolic processes. For human, it is responsible for transporting oxygen transport, carrying out deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis, as well as in electron transport. That being said, it is important to have a regulated amount of in the form of free radicals, as too much of it can result in tissue damage. Disorders of iron metabolism are commonly seen amongst a huge percentage of global population and can result in diverse clinical manifestations. The most common one is anemia.

Did you know?

The fraction of iron absorbed from the daily food may range from 5% to 35% and depends on a number of factors such as age, physical activities and type of iron.

During the stage of early infancy, the iron requirements are met by human milk. However, the need for iron rises becomes important and more from 4-6 months after birth and typically should be anywhere between 0.7-0.9 mg/day. Of 1 and 6 years of age, this requirement almost doubles and becomes considerably high in adolescents. Iron is one of the most vital elements during the period of growth spurt and more so for menstruating girls. For boys, the need for iron reaches high during puberty.

The fine balance between dietary uptake and loss is necessary to maintain the iron balance in the body. As and how there is augmentation of body mass, thete will be boost in iron requirements.

The highest probability of suffering iron deficiency is amongst those who cannot have adequate access to iron rich foods and it is applicable to anyone irrespective of the age and gender.

Consequences of iron deficiency

Iron deficiency results from depletion of iron stores in the body. The primary reason is difficulty or problem with iron absorption which fails to keep pace over a long period with the metabolic demands of the body. It fails to aid in the normal body growth and to replenish iron loss, which is primarily related to blood loss.

The primary causes of iron deficiency can be any of the following –

  • low intake of bio-available iron
  • increased iron requirements caused from rapid growth
  • pregnancy
  • heavy blood flow in menstruation, and
  • excess blood loss from pathologic infections

How Your Body Uses Iron in Food

When you eat iron rich, it is absorbed mainly through the upper part of the small intestine. There are two forms of dietary iron- heme and non-heme. While sitting back at home and being stuck in this pandemic, you should be aware of the benefits of iron-rich food and how it can impact your health. Monotonous diets can also complications in iron absorption and accumulation.

Common food items rich in Iron

With a daily value (DV) is 18 milligrams, Iron is an essential nutrient that can be found in the following sources-

Animal-based sources of iron

  • liver (chicken, lamb)
  • sardines
  • egg (chicken)
  • duck
  • beef
  • lamb
  • salmon

Plant-based sources of iron

Plant foods that have non-heme iron include-

  • legumes (such as lentils, chickpeas, beans)
  • firm tofu
  • dried apricots
  • dried apricots
  • pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • sunflower seeds
  • nuts (cashews and almonds)
  • wholegrain cereals (oats or muesli, brown rice, whole meal bread, amaranth and quinoa)
  • vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, and green peas

Eating a balanced, healthy diet which has all the nutrients along with being good sources of iron can help prevent the deficiencies. However, if you feel there is any sort of constant fatigue or weakness, do not delay to get in touch with a doctor at the earliest.

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