The Importance of Iron for Human Body

Iron is a key mineral for human metabolism. Most of the iron within the body is found in the hemoglobin of the red blood cells which carries oxygen to every part of the body. In addition to that, iron also helps increase your resistance to stress and certain diseases.

What happen if your body does not have enough Iron?

Lack of iron can lead to anemia. Anemia is a condition in which a person’s blood has low levels of red blood cells. It is because haemoglobin that constitutes the red blood cells requires iron for its formation. The iron deficiency anemia can cause fatigue, chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, it can lead to heart problems, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.

Who needs more Iron?

Those who are at the highest risk of iron deficiency include:

  • Pre-menopausal women
  • Pregnant women
  • People who frequently donate blood
  • People with any type of bleeding in the intestines (e.g, bleeding ulcer)
  • People with gastrointestinal conditions that make it difficult to absorb nutrients from food.

How much of Iron do I need?

The amount of iron needs in each person will vary depending on age and gender. It also depends on the amount of iron that has stored in your body. If the stored iron is high, the body absorbs less iron from the food you eat. Otherwise, your ability to absorb iron increases when you stored iron is low.

When compared to men, women are more likely to need iron particularly pre-menopausal and pregnant women. Recommended daily quantity:

  • Children: 7-10mg
  • Young men: 13mg
  • Young women: 16mg
  • Men: 9mg
  • Women: 16mg (18mg during menstruation)
  • Pregnant women: 30mg
  • Elderly people: 9mg

What are the Iron rich foods?

Iron can be found in foods in two different forms: haeme iron and non-haeme iron.

  • Haeme iron: generally found in fish, meat and poultry. Foods containing heme iron are the best sources for increasing or maintaining healthy iron levels. Some of these foods include shellfish, oysters, pork, beef, organ meats and chicken.
  • Non-haeme iron: commonly found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains products. This form of iron is not easily absorbed as haeme iron. Some of these foods include: Eggs, dried beans, breads, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, kale, radish, and dried fruits.

Some of the foods you eat may reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron. Drinking tea or coffee with meals can reduce the absorption of iron by 50-60%. Phosphate in cola drinks and phytates in some grains may also interfere with iron absorption. You have to avoid such foods if your diet is low in iron.