Health News of Saturday, 18 January 2014

Source: Wise Chukwudi Letsa/The Mirror

The iron in your food

Iron plays a central role in human nutrition. It ensures that the body receives adequate amount of blood which is the medium of life to the body. Blood carries food throughout the body, it carries oxygen which is necessary for life in the cells of the body.

Blood, as said by many, is life and this cannot be disputed at all. People who lose blood need urgent blood transfusion to restore the loss otherwise they risk losing their lives.

Anyone who has sub-optimal amounts of blood in their body does not feel well. There is the tendency to feel weak all the time. Also, some people feel dizzy, others also get tired so easily.

Everyone must, therefore, ensure that their diet is well balanced to enable them to maintain natural levels of blood for life, as well as good health.

Eating a well-balanced meal is the basic requirement for making enough blood.

Very key in the process of making blood is the nutrient iron. It is rich in foods such as meat, animal liver and green leafy vegetables.

It is very necessary to ensure that meals contain the required amount of iron at all times.

It is very likely that most of the foods we eat throughout the day will deliver some iron to the body. This is because these foods either have meat, fish, milk or green leafy vegetables that are known to contain iron.

However, the total amount of iron contained in the diet isn’t wholly made available for the process of blood making. In other words, not all the iron taken in food will end up being absorbed into the blood. The diet, therefore, needs to be well structured to ensure that the body can absorb all the iron contained in the diet.

There are two main things to consider in this regard. One, the type of iron in the food being consumed. Iron from animal foods, which is referred to as haem-iron, is easily absorbed by the human body.

For best benefit in terms of iron absorption therefore, it is better to eat animal based foods such as meat, milk, eggs and their products. Care should, however, be taken during the intake of these animal foods.

Thus, any abuse of these foods can lead to other bad health conditions or diseases. It is common to see that most of the people who become anaemic also have other related disease conditions that may prevent them from consuming such animal products.

The healthcare giver for this reason needs to consider all options before putting people on diet for iron.

Second, there should be enough quantity of nutrients such as vitamin C as it aids the body in iron absorption. This would also help the body in iron absorption from plant sources which otherwise would not have been absorbed easily by the body.

Having fruits with main meals can be a booster to iron absorption. The fruits provide vitamin C which aid the body to absorb the iron present in the food eaten.

This practice really helps those groups of people who need not joke with their iron levels such as pregnant women, pubertal girls among others to get their daily iron requirements met.

Ensuring that the body absorbs dietary iron helps maintain optimal blood levels, as well as promote good health and vitality.

The writer of this article is a Dietician at Trust Hospital & Clinics. He is also the Author of “Your Diet & Your Health Magazine”.