Iron, Calcium and Salt – Dave Hamilton

Iron

Iron is useful throughout the body but it is mainly present in our blood where it is attached to a molecule known as haemoglobin. It is the presence of these haemoglobin molecules that gives us red blood cells making our blood red. People with not enough iron in their diet will suffer from a condition known as anaemia due to lack of these red blood cells.  Someone who suffers from anaemia, or an anaemic, will have a pale complexion and often lack in energy.  Anaemia is more common in women than men due to menstrual blood loss so women need a higher amount of iron in their diet.
Iron is found not only in meat and organ meats such as liver and kidneys but also in eggs, vegetables, cereals, pulses and fruit. Iron is especially high in Liver pate, sardines, watercress, dried apricots and surprisingly curry powder.
Iron is better absorbed when eaten with vitamin C so it is worth having a glass of orange juice with your meal.  Calcium on the other hand stops out bodies absorbing iron so effectively, so avoid drinking milk with meals high in iron.

Calcium

There is more calcium in the body than any other mineral, 99% of which is in our bones and teeth.  The other 1% is used for clotting blood, to aid muscle movement and in the function of nerves and some enzymes.
Vitamin D is needed either from sunlight or from the diet to help the absorption of calcium. Without calcium and Vitamin D the bones can become deformed especially in growing children.
Calcium can be found in all dairy products such as cheese, milk and yoghurt.  Vegans and those allergic to dairy products may consider taking calcium supplements but should be careful not to take them at the same time as iron tablets – (See above).  However there are significant amounts of calcium in tap water in hard water areas and in vegetables such as watercress, okra, baked beans. Also some Soya milks and rice milks are now fortified with calcium.

Sodium and Chloride (Salt)

Salt is an essential part of our diet as it is present in all body fluids.  However in the modern diet there is far too much salt as it is added to a lot of convenience food. The average intake of salt in the UK is 9g per day and the recommended amount is far less at only 6g a day. This may seem like a low amount but this 3g drop could help prevent heart disease, stroke and other diseases associated with high blood pressure.

Ways of Reducing Salt intake

Unfortunately if you are used to a lot of salt it can be difficult to cut down.  It may help to cut down a little at a time, adding extra herbs or spices instead.  Also be careful of hidden salt in products such as stock cubes and gravy. You can make your own vegetable, meat or fish stock by boiling your vegetable/meat/fish scraps and passing the liquid through a sieve. Fish heads are often used to make fish stock and for vegetable stock you can use pea pods and leek tops. This stock can then be used straight away or frozen you can also add a little corn flour to thicken it up to make gravy.
A lot of tinned vegetables also contain salt and where possible try to wash away excess salt by draining the vegetables under the tap.  This is not possible for products such as baked beans but lower salt alternatives are slowly becoming available.

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3 Comments on Iron, Calcium and Salt – Dave Hamilton

  1. Large amounts of Vitamin C can also prevent iron being absorbed. Bodies vary. What happens to me with my metabolism may not happen to you the same way: experiment carefully.

  2. Hello Bernie,
    when you say large amounts how much do you mean? I would be interested to find where your information comes from as it’s not something I’ve come across before. What I do know is that increased vitamin C can cause increased iron in the body, which can be quite damaging.
    Very large amounts of vitamin C can also cause bowel disturbances. For this reason I would generally suggest people don’t supplement with it – unless they have a cold or flu. Instead I would advise taking it from natural sources (preferably from home-grown fresh fruit and vegetables).
    In plant form Vitamin C is generally very safe indeed.

    • Hi Dave,
      Only just seen your question. Apologies. Too much outdoor work to keep up with wrist and eye strain.
      Some years back I started taking 500 mg (or was it 1000 mg?) Vit C tablets for a while thinking I would re-energise my life. Later transpired problems were at root mental rather than physical and I was treating symptoms not causes. Ho hum. We do these things. Result of Vit C tablets was extreme tiredness and nausea. Doctor put me on iron tablets. At that stage in zombie mode I did not question, but just did it. Hardly a scientific study for you, but this is what was behind my comment. On reflection, I do not know enough about the subject to be offering advice so apologies. But I stand by my comment about variable metabolism. I might add that mental states affect body states far more than I have in the past wanted to accept!

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