By Dr. Danielle Desroche
Iron is an important mineral needed for growth and development, as well as the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency anemia affects one out of five women under the age of 50. To learn if low iron could be the root cause of your hair troubles, click here.
Iron is found naturally in both animal and plant-based foods. Heme iron is the form found in animal products and is most easily absorbed while non-heme iron is the form found in plants.
Roughly 15-35% of heme iron is absorbed compared to 2-20% of non-heme iron. (1) Because non-heme iron is more difficult to absorb, those who follow a plant-based diet are at an increased risk of iron deficiency. Eating a variety of whole foods can help increase your dietary intake of iron.
Vitamin C has been found to bind to non-heme iron and store it in a form that is more easily absorbed. Foods rich in vitamin C include peppers, citrus, tomatoes, broccoli, peas, strawberries, and kale. Pairing these foods with iron-rich foods can help increase iron levels. A great example of this pairing would be peppers with beans.
Because iron is a difficult mineral to absorb, supplementation may be necessary to achieve adequate levels. It is possible to take too much iron and reach toxic levels. Be sure to consult your doctor first so they can help guide you in knowing which dosage and form of iron is best for you.
Tannins and oxalates are natural compounds found in tea and coffee known to bind non-heme iron and prevent absorption. Rather than eliminating these beverages entirely, consume them two hours away from iron-rich foods or supplements.
When using cast iron, iron is released from the pan and absorbed by the foods being cooked, particularly acidic foods like tomatoes. One study found that cooking with cast iron increased the iron content of food by 16% (2).
If you are concerned about your iron levels don’t hesitate to have a conversation with your doctor and ask for the support you need.
ABOUT DR. DANIELLE DESROCHE
Dr. Danielle Desroche is a licensed naturopathic doctor specializing in PCOS, fertility, and thyroid health. Using natural therapies, she aims to address the root cause of symptoms while restoring balance in the body so it can function optimally. She owns a virtual telemedicine practice, which allows her to connect with and support women from across the country. She is passionate about educating and empowering her patients to understand their bodies and take control of their health. To learn more, visit www.drdanielledesroche.com or find her on Instagram and TikTok @drdanielle.nd.