Iron is a crucial mineral for optimal health. It can be absorbed through good nutrition, supplements or prescription tablets and helps to ensure the healthy production of red blood cells. These are essential for transporting oxygen around the body.
A lack of iron can result in anaemia, the symptoms of which can include fatigue, palpitations, headaches and hair loss. Many anaemia patients also complain of poor short-term memory and loss of concentration. If left untreated, anaemia can compromise the immune system overall and leave the sufferer feeling weak, irritable and even depressed.
Even if we are consuming enough iron, we may not be absorbing it. Iron absorption can be compromised in a number of ways, whether by underlying conditions that can be checked by our GP or by other aspects of our nutrition. Calcium-rich products such as dairy can inhibit iron absorption, as can tea and coffee.
Pregnancy and lack of iron can compromise the health of mother and baby, but poor iron absorption in any circumstances can inhibit optimal health. Fortunately, if we want to maximise our body’s ability to absorb, use and benefit from the iron we consume, we can support it with a variety of vitamins.
Necessary for a healthy immune system, vitamin C also performs several other essential functions, including healthy cell function and optimal healing. Vitamin C is also particularly important for iron absorption and can be found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, such as oranges, berries, peppers, broccoli and even brussels sprouts. NHS Online recommends approximately 40mg of the vitamin a day for adults.
The principal role of the antioxidant vitamin A is to transport iron from its storage areas within the body to support optimal function. A lack of vitamin A within a diet can inhibit this process and compromise absorption as a result. Leafy green vegetables are an especially good source of vitamin A, along with tomatoes and oranges and yellow vegetables. Fish oils and liver have high concentrations of vitamin A. In some cases, pregnancy and lack of iron can be linked, but women seeking to improve their iron absorption with vitamin A should avoid liver in particular, as the high concentrations can be harmful to the baby.
Lower concentrations of vitamin A can be found in carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes and more.