For the next couple of months I’m completely immersed in the study of micronutrients, also known as the yummy minerals and vitamins your body needs to function optimally. So I’ll be posting some articles to shed a little more light on micronutrients, and perhaps get you thinking about supplementing with food or at the very least ensuring you are getting in your daily multivitamin. Macronutrients are the essential dietary staples the average person worries about ie: fats, carbs, and protein. However micronutrients are so incredibly essential that deficiency in certain ones can literally stop hundreds of necessary chemical reactions in the body! The danger of talking about micronutrients in isolation is that we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. Your body needs a wide-range of nutritional goodies to keep you functioning at your best, so please do not take the focus of these articles as a sign to start supplementing in excess one particular nutrient. It’s important to get regular blood testing with a doctor to ensure you are not deficient in key minerals or vitamins your body needs.
Are you aware that iron deficiency is not only the most common deficiency in the United States, it’s actually the most common deficiency worldwide? Which means most of the people you know including the man in the mirror, may be iron deficient. Iron serves as a catalyst for many redox reactions in the body, is important for energy metabolism, oxygen delivery, oxygen transport and storage, and even DNA synthesis. It is essential for exercise and athletic endurance/performance because of its role in oxygen delivery. Female athletes or those that are endurance runners or participate in a mix of anaerobic and aerobic activities are more likely to need additional iron because of menstruation. Sorry ladies! Unfortunately because “Aunt Flow” comes to visit us every month we lose more iron than our male counterparts. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron for men 19-50 years of age is 8 mg and for women in the same age range is 18 mg. If you are vegan or vegetarian you also may need 1.8 times more iron than your meat-eating friends.
How do you know if you should supplement? Symptoms of iron deficiency can include: fatigue, increased heart rate, palpitations, impaired exercise and work capacity, pica (you know those people who love to chew on ice?), spoon shaped nails, and more. The thing about iron supplementation as you may well know is that it can cause constipation, nausea, abdominal pain and host of uncomfortable side effects. So for those that are physically active it may be best to ensure you are getting more iron from your diet and not from an over the counter supplement. When you increase iron consumption also keep in mind that vitamin C actually helps to increase iron absorption, while oxalates (found beets, spinach, etc.), calcium, and manganese can inhibit or decrease the absorption of iron. This is what makes pomegranates an iron supplying superfood, they have a rich source of vitamin C and iron the perfect combination to make sure the iron is absorbed by your body. Below are some great food sources of iron. If you are anemic, you should consult your doctor and ensure you supplement but do not overdose on the amount you need to get your levels back up to normal. -XO Raw Girl
Some great VEG food sources of (non-heme) iron include: quinoa, legumes: lentils, kidney beans, garbanzo, pinto, tofu, soybeans, soy milk, tempeh, fortified cereals, cacao, Nuts and seeds: cashews, pumpkin, pistachio, almonds, peanuts, sunflower, sesame, tomatoes, swiss chard, collard greens, kale, spinach, black strap molasses, dried figs, raisins, pomegranates, whole grains, cacao.
Zimmerman, M. (2001). Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition. Micronutrients in the Prevention and Therapy of Disease. New York, NY: Thieme.
Alauntye, I., Stojceska, V. & Plunkett, A. (2015). Iron and the female athlete: a review of dietary treatment methods for improving iron status and exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12, 38. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31829a6f6b.
WebMD: Foods High in Oxalates