1. Why is iron important for our health?
Iron is an important component of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the part in red blood cells that carries oxygen.
If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t have enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
A lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anaemia.
2. Should we then get as much iron as possible?
No, excess iron in the blood increases our risk of:
– heart disease
– neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
3. How can we avoid having too much iron?
Consume only nonheme iron (iron from plant sources – heme iron comes from animal sources).
Our body has difficulty removing excess iron, so our small intestine tries to block excess iron absorption. However, it is able to block only the nonheme iron (plant iron). Heme iron (from animal sources) may not be blocked. Therefore, it is easier to get iron overload from heme iron.
There is also a growing concern over a strong link between heme iron and cancer.
4. How can nonheme iron (from plant sources) be well absorbed into our body?
Consume Vitamin C in the same meal as the iron rich meal. For example, include an orange with an iron rich meal.
5. What’s a good solution for anaemia?
Try freshly squeezed orange juice sweetened with molasses (which contains lots of iron)
Take Vitamin C with iron rich foods (click here to see the iron content of various foods).
6. What can improve iron absorption?
Avoid caffeine for at least 1 hour after an iron rich meal, as caffeine can interfere and reduce iron absorption by 60-90%.
Soaking beans can help increase iron absorption by 300% to 1100%, as unsoaked beans have phytic acid which inhibits iron absorption.
The information shared here is for educational purposes only.
These opinions are not given as medical advice and not intended to replace or conflict with your decisions or healthcare providers’ advice.
1. “Hemoglobin and Functions of Iron” www.ucsfhealth.org
2. Michael Greger “Risk Associated with Iron Supplements” NutritionFacts.org Jul 27, 2012 Vol 9
3. “Heme iron from meat and risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and stomach” www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov PMC 2013 Mar 1.
4. Cancer Research “A central role for heme iron in colon carcinogenesis associated with red meat intake” www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Epub 2015 Jan 15.
5. Lynch SR, Cook JD. “Interaction of vitamin C and iron” www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1980
6. “Inhibition of non-haem iron absorption in man by polyphenolic-containing beverages” www.cambridge.org Vol 81, Issue 4 Apr1999
7. Amanda Rose, Ph.D. “Soaking beans for more iron” www.dailyiron.net