If you frequently experience fatigue, have brittle nails, and crave certain non-food items, the chances of you having iron deficiency are high.

Iron is required by the body to make hemoglobin, which enables red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.

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“Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies. You’ll experience fatigue, hair loss, brittle nails, and even a craving for non-food items like chalk, raw rice, detergent,” Simrun Chopra, a nutritionist, wrote on Instagram, adding that “we are what we eat, digest, and absorb.”

The expert further shared that there are two types of iron — non-heme and heme.

“We get non-heme iron from vegetarian sources. This form is quite unstable and we can absorb around 2 to 20% depending on gut health and many dietary factors. However, heme iron, that we get from animal sources, has a higher absorption rate — 15 to 35%,” she shared.

According to her, the main causes of low iron absorption could be the following dietary factors:

*Having caffeinated beverages with foods — this includes tea, coffee, green tea, or anything that has caffeine in it. The caffeine, tannins, and polyphenols bind with iron, making it more difficult to get absorbed.

“This is mostly seen with non-heme iron, which means vegetarians are at a higher risk of iron deficiency,” she said, suggesting drinking tea or coffee between meals and having an hour gap between meals and caffeinated beverages for better absorption of iron in the system.


*Not adding vitamin C to iron-rich meals. Adding vitamin C to meals helps absorb the iron present in our food.

*Digestive inability to absorb iron. This usually happens with people who have digestive disorders, intolerances, and issues like celiac disease.

In addition to the above reasons, the most important factor for low iron is not having iron-rich foods, she pointed out.

“Women who are pregnant or get heavy periods, children, and vegetarians/vegans have a higher risk of being iron deficient,” she wrote.

She recommended adding iron-fortified foods or a supplement, in case you are vegetarian/vegan. “If you have an iron deficiency then reduce caffeine. Also, check your iron levels every 6 months to a year,” she suggested in her post.

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