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Absorbing the Impact of a Meat Shortage

Grocery stores are preparing for hard times ahead. Not for themselves though.

For their customers…

Meat departments in some places have already begun rationing.

Costco is limiting fresh meat purchases to three items per customer.

Stop & Shop set a limit of two meaty items per customer.

And Wegmans is allowing only two packages of bacon, beef, chicken or pork per customer in some locations.

The coronavirus crisis has created a major decline in meat production. Workers are getting sick… and plants are closing down all over the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that beef production is down 31% compared with last year. And pork is down 24%.

And this has a serious impact on our health when it comes to a crucial nutrient we need.

Running Out of Storage

Red meat, chicken and fish contain the most easily absorbed form of dietary iron.

Even though many plant-based foods like spinach, beans and pumpkin seeds are rich in iron, the body doesn’t do as well absorbing it from these sources.

Now, typically most Americans have plenty of iron. It’s estimated around only 2% of Americans have an iron deficiency. A varied diet usually provides plenty of iron. And any extra we eat is stored.

Most of the body’s iron is kept in hemoglobin protein in red blood cells that deliver oxygen to organs and tissue. Iron helps turn the food we eat into cell-powering energy.

But if our iron levels start to get low, our bodies have a backup.

Ferritin proteins latch onto excess iron and store it in the liver, spleen and bone marrow. So if iron levels in red blood cells get low, the body can just withdraw some from the ferritin bank.

So if you’re finding yourself eating less meat these days, know this…

Running out of stored iron can lead to all sorts of health complications.

Mainly anemia.

A Simple Fix

Anemia has many symptoms…

Overall weakness, fatigue, brittle nails, irritability, restless legs syndrome, dizziness, shortness of breath, pasty skin and headaches can all come from an iron deficiency.

That’s because there just isn’t enough oxygen being delivered to the places that need it.

If left untreated, anemia leads to severe fatigue and an inability to perform routine, everyday tasks.

It can also result in an irregular heartbeat because the heart needs to pump more blood than usual to make up for the lack of oxygen in the blood…

Which can turn into a life-threatening situation, causing stroke or heart failure.

The good news is that for most folks, the fix is simple.

If you’re not getting enough iron from meat, supplement your diet with an iron pill.

For most people, 10 milligrams (mg) per day is plenty to fill your reserves while keeping red blood cells healthy and delivering oxygen.

But you don’t want to overdo it…

The upper limit of iron intake is 45 mg per day.

Too much iron can lead to stomach pains and nausea. And if excess iron intake continues and accumulates in internal organs, it can also cause liver and brain damage…

So you want to make sure you’re getting enough, but not too much.

You can also boost the body’s ability to absorb iron from plants by making sure you’re getting enough vitamin C.

Studies have shown that 100 mg of vitamin C (about half a cup of bell peppers or a cup of orange juice) can increase iron absorption by up to 63%.

Getting enough iron in our diet is easy most of the time. But as this pandemic continues, it’s creating increased uncertainty in many parts of the food supply chain.

So if your diet is coming up a little short in the meat department, a little dose of iron could be what you need to stay healthy.

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