Eat Your Spinach (with lemon): How Iron Supports Healthy Skin
Iron deeply affects how our bodies look and feel. While all nutritional deficiencies wreak havoc on our health, low iron is a special concern as it is a very common deficiency in adult women—many of us undiagnosed. Iron is packed into our hemoglobin so when we lose blood we lose iron, making menstruating women more vulnerable to anemia. But our periods are not the only cause of iron loss, so are low iron intake and poor digestion. If our digestive strength is impaired, this can prevent proper absorption of iron-rich foods. While low iron leads to many problems from fatigue to muscle weakness and bouts of light-headedness, it also influences our skin, hair and nails.
Signs of Low Iron
Dull skin? This may because of low iron. When we look at the structure of the hemoglobin molecule, iron is in its center—essentially holding it together. So when we lack iron, we lack hemoglobin (the molecule in red blood cells). This is why one sign of anemia is a pale complexion due to the decrease in red blood particles. Also, hemoglobin transports oxygen and a shortage of it also leads to less oxygen distribution. Oxygen is important for feeding our tissues including our skin.
Beyond the skin, it's also important to look to our bodies for signs of low iron. Brittle or peeling nails are another symptom as our extremities are also not being fed and nourished properly through our blood systems. Hair loss can also be linked to anemia. And low oxygen leads to sore muscles and overall fatigue. It’s near impossible to truly feel our best if we are uncomfortable and depleted of vitality.
Easy Ways to Get More Fe!
The most obvious way to increase iron (or Fe, its symbol on the periodic table) is to eat more iron-rich foods. Meat is a common source as animal protein tends to be the high in bioavailable iron. But for those who want to get more iron in through plant-based foods, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds and spinach are excellent sources. One thing to know about spinach is that we need to pair it with vitamin C to make the iron readily available, so squeeze a lemon or orange over your spinach salad to give yourself an dose of Fe power!
If we are not absorbing iron properly, we may need to supplement. Ask your naturopathic doctor for the options that will work for your body best. Saying this, natural health products are not the only form of supplementation. Another way to get in more iron is to cook with cast iron cookware. Kitchen connoisseurs who swear by cast iron for efficacy can be happy knowing it's also nutritious! This helps us get a little iron in on a daily basis as it subtly seeps into our food with use (note: if iron is getting into our food through our cookware, it's important to look into what materials our other pots and pans are made of!).
With a few small changes, we can prevent iron-deficiency and enjoy glowing skin, strong nails, voluminous hair and effortlessly dance a little happy dance. Now that’s beautiful.
Kristen Ma is an esthetician, Ayurvedic practitioner and award-winning author of “Beauty: Pure + Simple – A Holistic Guide to Natural Beauty”. Kristen co-owns Pure + Simple Inc., an independent chain of holistic spas that also has its own line of natural skincare. She blogs regularly about natural, Ayurveda-inspired beauty at www.holisticvanity.com and tweets @holisticvanity. She also writes for a number of publications and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.