Iron is an essential mineral that is important for the healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body. Iron’s main purpose is to carry oxygen in the hemoglobin of red blood cells throughout your body so cells can produce energy. Without enough iron, your body would not be able to create enough healthy red blood cells.
The body needs a certain amount of iron for healthy blood cells, but beyond this amount, iron can become dangerous. The access acts as a catalyst for the formation of free radicals. Once this excess iron is absorbed by the digestive tract, the body stores it. Most people accumulate much more than they need. In fact, it is much more common to have too much iron, rather than too little (anemia). The reason for this excess is because of vitamin and mineral supplements containing added iron, excess consumption of red meat, and even iron being added to manufactured foods.
The iron in red meat is a highly absorbable form of iron, called heme iron, contributing to an abundance of iron in the body. Meat also has no fiber and is high in cholesterol. This combination lends itself to excess accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries.
Meat is also high in acid. This acid must be neutralized and is neutralized by the bones, causing bone loss, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. Excess iron overworks and taxes the kidneys and liver which work as filters to bring the body hack to a more alkaline state.
The body has no way to rid itself of excess iron. Iron accumulation to such high levels that produce cancer can be prevented by simply avoiding excess iron in the diet. What are the dangers of excess iron? Cirrhosis, liver cancer, cardiac arrhythmia, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and bacterial & viral infections.
Iron is present in many plant foods. As a matter of fact, you can get all the iron you need with a whole-foods plant based diet. The iron found in plants is a better choice, because it is enough to promote more adequate levels without encouraging storage above the recommended range.
Though heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body than the non-heme iron found in plants, it comes with a host damaging effects and is not worth the risk. Non-heme iron from plant foods is the healthier option. So how do we maximize absorption of iron from plant foods, and make sure we are getting enough? By consuming vitamin C rich foods. Eating foods like citrus fruits, broccoli, or bell peppers at the same meal as iron rich plant foods can improve absorption. In contrast, avoid drinking tea or coffee with your meals, as these beverages work to impair the absorption of iron.
Iron rich plant foods include:
- Dark chocolate
- Dark leafy greens
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Dried fruit
- Whole Grains