Iron’s Ironclad Connection to the Human Brain5 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Researchers are now uncovering some thought-provoking evidence that iron is even more important than we may have thought. You probably already know that incorporating iron into your diet can help stave off anemia and streamline oxygen to blood cells. But what most people may not understand is that iron plays a significant role in brain health and cognition as well.
A recent study conducted on a small test group of adolescent students in rural India revealed improved cognitive skills with increased iron consumption. According to Penn State researchers, students who consumed an iron-fortified version of the grain, pearl millet, showed improved cognitive productivity.
When your cognitive health is compromised due to malnutrition or illness, it may affect your ability to think, learn and retain knowledge. It is also needed to control your emotion, sensory and motor functions. So incorporating adequate iron into your diet may improve your overall cognitive health.
Iron is an essential mineral and one that the body needs to survive. Iron deficiency is among one of the most widespread micronutrient deficiencies, reportedly affecting over 30% of the population. Healthy levels of Iron are also responsible for the production of red blood cells, oxygen transportation throughout the body, immune functions and enzyme synthesis.
Iron plays a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Think of neurotransmitters as the brain’s communication tool. Without them, your brain wouldn’t be able to tell the heart to beat, yout stomach to digest food or your lungs to expand and contract. Neurotransmitters are also responsible for telling your brain to release the proper amounts of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and all the other mood balancing chemicals that are vital to providing the body balance.
The consequences of iron deficient populations can be pretty extreme. And since iron deficiency can pass from mother to child, it is especially important for women of reproductive age to have access to iron rich foods.
Examples of Iron Rich Foods
Spinach - Spinach can be an excellent source of iron. Some animal products may fall short of providing the same caliber of iron that is abundant in vegetables. Cooking spinach can help unlock its benefits and make iron more available to your body.
Dark Chocolate - Who says chocolate is a guilty pleasure? Dark chocolate is packed with iron rich goodness. If you are deciding to indulge a bit and derive your iron from chocolate, it is recommended your select chocolate that is a minimum of 70% cocoa to get maximum benefits. One serving, about 1 ounce, contains 3.3mg of iron.
Broccoli - Broccoli is a incredibly nutritious vegetable and viable source of iron. A 1-cup serving of cooked broccoli contains 1 mg of iron, which is 6% of the RDI.
Lentils - Remember when it was all about kale? Well, not to knock kale, but lentils are another amazing food with a handful of benefits. Lentils contain 3.3 milligrams of iron per 100 grams.
Iron Enriched Millet
Millet, a cereal crop, is an excellent crop to fortify because it can be easily farmed in extreme conditions and is ideally suited for dryland cultivation. This pearl millet called chakti is biofortified to contain 20% more iron than conventional crops. The proliferation of these enhanced, nutrient-rich crops aim to increase the lifespan of communities and give younger generations a better chance at survival. It is believed that increasing levels of iron in the diets of these communities will promote good physical health as well as increased cognitive potential in young adults.
Finally, it is important to occasionally test the level of iron in your body. You should not have too much iron or too little iron. In either case, you may have health consequences. As a result, getting a nutrient test for iron could be a great idea. This way you can monitor your intake to ensure your levels are optimal.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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