Weekly Wellness: The mystery of the missing nutrients (part 4)

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COLUMBIA - Without this week's missing nutrient, your body can't get enough oxygen. Is that important enough? I, personally, think so. This nutrient is a vital component of hemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body).

This week's missing nutrient is iron.

Hemoglobin represents about two-thirds iron. If you don't have enough iron, your body can't make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. In medical terms, a lack of red blood cells is called anemia. Low iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. Almost 10 percent of women are iron deficient, according to figures from the Ceneters for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why we need it: Iron is an essential protein building block. Iron carries oxygen through the body to building muscles. Not getting enough of this element can cause fatigue (also known as anemia), memory loss, muscle loss, and difficulties regulating body temperature.

How much we need: The recommended daily intake of iron for adult women is 18mg daily and 8mg for men. Women are more likely than men to suffer from iron deficiency. Not getting enough iron can be a problem for those with particular diets like vegans and vegetarians. Iron from animal sources is absorbed two to three times more efficiently than iron from plants.

How to get it: 10 clams (2.62mg), 1/2 cup edmame (2.25mg), 1/2 cup lentils (3.3mg), 4oz. beef sirloin steak (2.4mg), 1 cup cooked broccoli (1.5mg), 1/4 cup cashews (2mg), and 1/4 cup dried apricots (1.9mg).

Top 10 foods highest in iron:

  1. Squash and pumpkin seeds
  2. Liver (chicken)
  3. Seafood (oysters, mussels, clams)
  4. Nuts (cashew, pine, hazelnut, peanut, almond)
  5. Beef and lamb (lean chuck roast)
  6. Beans and pulses (white beans, lentils)
  7. Whole grains, fortified cereals, and bran
  8. Dark leafy greens (spinach, Swiss chard)
  9. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder
  10. Tofu