Iron plays an important role in the function of the body. In fact, it serves a number of different roles, including helping the body to make hemoglobin, which is the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. It also contributes to make myoglobin, which carries oxygen to one’s muscle tissue. oxygen is kind of important to, well… stay alive, so y’all can see how maintaining good iron levels can be extremely important. As with all things in life, the key aspect is to strike a proper balance between too much and too little.
People don’t often realize it, but iron also helps convert one’s blood sugar to energy, which means it plays an integral role in Type-1 Diabetes and the proper overall control of one’s blood sugar levels. All of that, combined with the fact that it will also help to strengthen one’s immune system makes iron a pretty tough supplement. Get it? Tough? Iron? No…? No one gets it? Very well… Moving on! There are a number fo different sources to get iron in one’s diet. Let’s look at a few of my favourites…
Spinach: Besides having a reasonable level of iron, spinach is also high in Vitamin C, antioxidants and can decrease inflammation in the body.
Legumes: Most people don’t necessarily know what’s meant by “legumes,” but they’re far more common in people’s diet than they realize. For example, my wife and I enjoy beans in our homemade chilli. Beans, along with lentils, peas and a few others, are high in iron as well as a reasonable source of folate, magnesium and potassium. they also tend to pack a decent fibre punch.
Red meat: Alright, if things are misspelled from this point on, it’s because I’m drooling at the thought of a decent-sized steak, brazed over a hot grill with delicious seasonings, and served with a side of steamed greens covered in butter… FML, I’m hungry… but seriously, most red meats contain zinc, selenium, B vitamins and, you guess it! Iron. There’s no need for me to tell you that red meat contains a reasonable protein punch as well, making it a perfect all around food to accompany whatever side you see fit.
Dark chocolate: Sign me up! Besides the fact that dark chocolate has a decent dose of iron, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the lower the total sugar. It apparently has to do with the difference in process from making milk chocolate. Who knows? What am I, a chocolatier??? All I know is that my wife and I usually prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate anyway, so life is good.
Fish: What can I say? I’m a Maritimer, born and raised. I love fish in all its forms and all its preparations. And fish have a bunch of stuff that’s good for you but it’s also high in iron.
Although all of this sounds great and you’re likely writing up your grocery list for a kick ass barbecue, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much iron in one’s body will result in organ damage, organ failure as well as cirrhosis and even lead to Type-2 Diabetes. Moderation is key. A simple blood test will reveal your iron levels and where you’re sitting. So, what if your iron levels are too low? That’s what we’ll cover next…
If you read that first paragraph again, you’ll notice that one of the main functions of iron is to carry oxygen. Lack of oxygen in the bloodstream will cause numbness in the limbs, weakness, pale skin and fatigue. You may also experience headaches, dizziness and blurred vision. How do I know all of this, you may ask? I could be a smart ass and say I looked it all up. And you’d be right. But I also know all of these things because my wife recently discovered numbness in her right arm and fingers. Considering we both have fatigue and weakness, it was hard to think much of it until she pushed the issue at the doctors office and a month later with iron supplements, oxygen flow to that arm is back to normal and no more numbness.
We often think that since we’re not hungry after we eat that all is well. Nutrition is about more than just filling one’s belly and not being hungry. But when it comes to something as important as iron, finding that happy medium for YOU is important. Too much iron, big problems. Too little iron, also big problems. Finding the balance, as with all things in life, is the key to ensuring proper nutrition and proper health. Food for thought… ☯️