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Iron and Your Health

Posted Nov 01 2009 10:00pm

Iron is good for you for a number of reasons, and it is an essential part of good health. Unfortunately, the intake of this mineral is notoriously low in the American diet and is considered to be the No. 1 nutritional disorder in the world, according to The World Health Organization.

Low iron seems to be especially prevalent in children under the age of two and in women ages 12 to 50. The main role of iron in your body lies within the red blood cells; this is where it combines with protein to form hemoglobin. When you inhale, oxygen is attracted to the iron in your hemoglobin and when these two elements combine, it courses through your body, converting sugar to energy and providing oxygen to your organs that keep you healthy.

A small biology lesson aside, it is easy to see why an iron deficiency can leave you feeling chronically tired and unhealthy. If the lack of iron in your blood becomes serious enough, you may develop anemia. If anemia is present, you may experience dizziness, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath.

If you suspect that you are anemic, you should not self-diagnose your condition; instead, seek advice from your medical professional, who will often suggest supplements to get you back on a more even keel. As you age, a lack of iron may cause even further problems.

One study out of Penn State suggests that a lack of iron can lowers the immune response to attacks of disease and common infections in the elderly; another one from the same school has shown that women with alopecia, or hair loss, have lower iron and hemoglobin levels than women who do not suffer the disease.

Another problem with a lack of iron in your diet may be concentration problems. Irritability, poor concentration, loss of appetite and frequent colds and flu symptoms can all be directly attributed to not getting enough of the nutrient. Current research shows that a lack of iron in ones diet, especially in children, can cause both behavioral and developmental problems.

In fact, children with iron deficiencies have shown poorer academic performance than their peers. Many parents do not recognize the problem might be an iron deficiency and pass it off to plain bad behavior. If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it may be worth taking a second look. During research of the topic, it was found that some intellectual and psychomotor impairment, due to the lack of iron in children's diets, was irreversible.

Iron is easy to get in a balanced daily diet; the problem occurs when individuals vary their diets from the recommended nutritional guidelines that are offered by the USDA. Iron can be found in foods like:

* Beans
* Tofu
* Beef
* Turkey
* Plant foods.

A "good" source of iron is considered any food which provides you with 10% or more of your daily need as published by the USRDA. Many of us can remember Popeye, cranking open a can of spinach in times when he needed to put his muscles to the test. Was he right?

Possibly; spinach is very high in iron, but the problem is, our bodies can only absorb a small amount of what is found in this food. There are two types of iron in foods; haem iron and non-haem iron. The first is found in animal foods, such as beef, chicken and fish, the latter is found in plant foods like bread, beans, vegetables and cereals. Haem iron, found in meat, is much easier for the body to absorb. Hands down, lean red meat is the best natural source of iron.

What about those who are vegetarians? You should definitely seek the advice of a physician when it comes to iron and health as there can be ways to get your recommended daily allowance of iron, but you'll have to be very careful about keeping your diet properly balanced. Or, your physician may tell you that a supplement is the way to go. Either way, make sure you bring it up, as an appropriate amount of iron is absolutely critical to your health.

Overall, the message is resoundingly clear: Get your recommended daily amounts of iron to feel healthy and look your best. With a life full of things to do, you don't have time to be tired, lethargic and unhealthy. If you have young children, make sure they are getting as much as they should, and model healthy behavior and choices for them so that when they are adolescents and adults, they will know the difference between what's healthy and what's not.

To Your Health,
Diet Health & Fitness
'Blog Squad'

DietHealthandFitness.com
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