Iron is an essential nutrient that we all need in our diets.
From playing a role in red blood cells by transporting oxygen around the body to providing much-needed energy for daily activity, iron plays an important role in a number of bodily functions.
In fact, iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency worldwide.
With a lack of iron known to lead to fatigue, headaches and even shortness of breath, it’s important to look at incorporating more iron rich foods into our diet.
To learn more about the importance of iron and how to up our daily intake of iron rich foods, we spoke to nutritionist and chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin.
Here’s what she had to say.
What is iron and why is it important?
Iron is an important mineral that’s required in our bodies to assist the proper function of hemoglobin.
Put simply, hemoglobin is a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood.
Besides assisting in the transportation of oxygen around the body, iron also has an essential role in DNA synthesis, the production of energy and breathing.
“Iron is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, immune function and skin and nail formation,” Zoe told Mamamia.
In children, iron is especially essential for the developing brain. Children who have iron deficiency with or without anaemia in infancy can suffer from long term negative affects on their brain function and even their behaviour.
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What happens to my body if I don’t consume enough iron?
Not consuming enough iron can have a serious impact on our body’s ability to function normally.
“If we don’t consume enough iron and become deficient in iron and if not corrected, we can develop a condition called iron deficiency anaemia,” Zoe explained.
“If this occurs, red blood cell production reduces and we can’t adequately transport oxygen throughout the body,” she added.
When our body becomes low in iron, there are common symptoms that tell us we’re in need of the mineral.
From our energy levels to our concentration to even our skin colour, iron deficiency can be picked up in a number of ways.
According to nutritionist Zoe, common symptoms of iron deficiency can include poor concentration, impaired memory, decreased immune function and shortness of breath with minimal exertion and decreased sports performance.
Other symptoms may include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, pale skin and fingernails, weakness and difficulty maintaining body temperature.
During pregnancy, the need for iron increases even more.