You know when someone cuts themselves, or worse luck, when you cut yourself and you pick up the odour of that metallic tincture? There’s a reason for it. Blood contains iron. Specifically, haem iron, different to the iron in plants, pulses, greens and wholemeal bread, which is non-haem iron.
I know – you’re thinking “What on earth is this bloke on? We’re doing cookery courses!” Bear with me – there is a point to this. Bit more science, then we’re into the cookery bit, promise.
Non-haem iron – the planty, grainy stuff (you should have seen how technical the original research piece on this got – you’ll be glad I failed chemistry, honest) – relies pretty much on the intake of other substances to control how the body deals with it. For instance, if you have cereal with OJ, then the vitamin C from the juice helps the body’s digestion of the non-haem iron found in the grain. If, on the other hand, you enjoyed your cereals but were worried about iron intake found in them because of high blood pressure, for example, you’d derive your enjoyment from bran as the high fibre content acts as a natural sweeper to get rid of the non-haem iron before it has chance to absorb. Drink a cup of tea with it and the tannins therein will have a similar ushering effect out of the system before the non-haem has a chance to react – all in moderation, of course – if you were to eat a box of bran, one cup of Liptons wouldn’t shift all of the iron, you understand.
But what’s concerning the medical councils is that we’re not getting enough iron in our diets, full stop. Or perhaps that should be, as the yanks say, period. Ah, see! Getting around to the foodie stuff, now.
Whilst there have been reservations in the past about our intake of red meats leading to high blood pressure and inflaming the symptoms of conditions such as gout (nothing at all to do with the ale, red wine, sherry and port, yer honour), there is now the consideration we’ve not got enough metal to steel our mettle. See what I did, there?
Keeping up so far? Good-ho! Right – take a break and a cup of char to wash away all of that iron from your breakfast cereal and join me in five for part two, Why is iron so essential to one’s diet?