Iron: The Fundamental Element

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

(Pharmacist Ben)Iron, though birthed in the interior stars, is perhaps the most fundamental element of life on earth. In fact, it would be difficult to find a multi-cellular organism on our little blue planet that can survive without the third most abundant of her elements (after silicon and oxygen).

In the human body, nutritional iron is an essential component of hundreds of enzymes and proteins. One of the most noticeable signs of iron deficiency is that you just don’t feel so good! That’s because one of iron’s most important roles is to deliver energizing oxygen to cells and remove toxic carbon dioxide.

Iron, the Fundamental ElementFor decades, iron supplements have been regarded as a panacea for most cases of the “blahs”. There are two types of iron found in foods: heme iron from meat and fish and non-heme iron found in meat, fish and vegetables. Of the two, heme iron is easier to absorb. Non-soaked grains and legumes as well as soy and compounds in tea, wine and coffee further hinder bio-availability. Vitamin C can improve the absorption of non-heme iron, so squeeze lots of lemon juice on your spinach!

One important note about iron: you can have too much of a good thing. Iron is so critical to the body that most of it is recycled, not excreted or used up. And because of its highly electrical nature, iron overload can be a problem. Woman lose iron through menstruation and studies show that blood donors have lower rates of disease and are generally healthier than average. Non-blood donor men however, especially those consuming a lot of meat, may be at risk for iron overload. Unless you’re deficient, the best way to make sure you are getting enough iron is through quality heme iron sources and lots of iron containing plant foods like beans, chard, avocado and the aforementioned spinach.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Nutrition