Iron is an element essential to the majority of life forms because it is a necessary component of enzymes and proteins involved in cell growth, oxygen transport, immune responses and energy. As the principle element of the hemoglobin molecule, iron absorbs oxygen in the lungs and dispenses oxygen to all areas of the body via red blood cells. In addition to hemoglobin, myoglobin is another vital oxygen-transporting molecule which requires iron to operate efficiently. Myoglobin is primarily responsible for distributing oxygen to the heart muscle and skeletal muscle.
Red meat is one of the best sources of iron, specifically the “heme” kind or iron, which is mostly found in cow meat. Plants are responsible for the “non-heme” type of iron that is not as easily assimilated by the body as red meat iron. Certain individuals require extra amounts of iron to supply the body’s demand, such as young women, toddlers and adolescent boys and girls due to growth spurts. However, the problem with eating red meat to supply the body with iron is that consumption of red meat is implicated in the potential for developing heart disease or Type II diabetes, especially in older individuals who are at risk for suffering from these disorders.
Fish and Non-Red Meat
Non-red meat foods containing high amounts of iron include chicken breast, turkey and chicken dark meat and chicken livers, which contain almost 13 milligrams of iron for each 3 1/2 ounce serving. In addition, chicken livers are an excellent source of protein, vitamins A, B and B12 and potassium. Vitamin B12 is essential for the body to produce healthy red blood cells as well. Iron-rich seafoods include sardines, tuna, oysters, shrimp and crabmeat. Seafood also provides omega 3 fatty acids, a super fish oil benefiting all parts of the body, especially the heart and immune system.
Whole grains possess higher iron content because the shells have not been removed as occurs in white grains. However, most white grain foods available in the United States are fortified with iron to compensate for loss of iron due to processing. Therefore, a slice of whole grain bread contains the same amount of iron that a slice of “enriched” white bread contains. White rice is also fortified with iron as well. Because white grain products also contains gluten, sugar and has underwent a bleaching process, whole grain products are healthier and furnish fiber to diets that are usually deficient in fiber.
Nuts, Beans and Seeds
Iron from plant sources is referred to as “non-heme iron” because of the difficulty the body has in absorbing the iron, unlike “heme” iron from meat sources. Soybeans, black beans, lima beans, peanuts and sunflower seed kernels all contain moderate amounts of iron. Facilitating the absorption of this non-heme iron is accomplished by eating other foods in conjunction with them, foods like fruits, melons, broccoli, red and green peppers and tomatoes. Vegetarians often need to eat more fruits and vegetables in order to absorb enough iron from nuts, beans and seeds, otherwise they may develop anemia, or iron-poor blood.
What Happens When You Forget to Take Your Anemia Medication
If you neglect to take your medication properly, you may eventually experience “high-output heart failure”, a condition that forces the heart to work harder than normal to get oxygen to internal organs and the brain. Swelling in the legs, feet and hands, chest pain and difficulty breath may also affect those who fail to take their anemia medication. In severe cases, damage to the heart muscle resulting from distressed tissues lacking enough oxygenated blood to function optimally can leave some patients with chronic heart conditions requiring even more medication and reduced quality of life.
Continue keeping your blood rich in iron by eating a healthy diet and taking your iron supplements as prescribed by your physician. So that you never experience the distressing side effects of anemia, let Pill Pal’s medicine alert system send you reminder messages via SMS or phone call when it is time to take your medication.