Although many people don’t think of iron as being a nutrient, you might be surprised to learn that low iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. Almost 10% of women are iron deficient, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Iron is an essential mineral. The major reason we need it is that it helps to transport oxygen throughout the body.
Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body. Hemoglobin represents about two-thirds of the body’s iron. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anemia.
Without healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough oxygen. “If you’re not getting sufficient oxygen in the body, you’re going to become fatigued”.
How much iron you need each day depends on your age, gender, and overall health.
Iron is essential for the proper growth and development of the human body. It helps metabolize proteins and plays a role in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Iron deficiency can lead to conditions like iron deficiency anemia, chronic anemia, cough, and pre-dialysis anemia.
The health benefits of iron include the eradication of different causes of fatigue. Iron also plays a key role in strengthening the immune system by making it strong enough to fight off infections. Iron builds concentration, treats insomnia, and regulates body temperature.
Legumes, lentils, soy beans, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, cereals, bread, spinach, turnip, fish, meat, sprouts, broccoli, and dry fruits are all foods that have a high iron content.
Iron deficiency anemia is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency disease and is most prevalent among children and women of childbearing age.
This type of anemia develops due to an inadequate amount of iron in the diet, impaired iron absorption, acute blood loss caused by hemorrhage or injury, or gradual blood loss such as from menstruation or gastrointestinal bleeding.
Inadequate intake of vitamin C can also contribute to *iron deficiency as vitamin C is needed to absorb *iron found in plant foods (non-heme *iron).
Formation of hemoglobin happens to be the chief function of this mineral. Not only that, being a part of hemoglobin, it gives the dark red shade to the blood and also aids in transporting oxygen to the body cells.
*Iron is a vital element for muscle health. It is present in the muscle tissues and helps in supply of oxygen required for contraction of muscles.
*Iron in the diet may help to reduce fatigue after exercise. Since *iron is an essential element of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to other cells of the body, it plays an important role in energy production and muscle function. Inadequate levels of *iron in the body may hinder endurance, increase fatigue and cause the muscles to tire more quickly.
Development of brain is also one of the many benefits of *iron. Since oxygen supply to blood is aided by *iron and brain uses approximately 20% of the blood oxygen, *iron is directly related to brain health and its functions.
One of the leading problems of aging individuals is the weakening of the immune system. Older people with poor nutrition can suffer from *iron deficiency which may ultimately lead to infections and diminished immune response. *Iron in the diet is especially beneficial for the health of T-cells and the ability of white cells to consume bacteria.
Foods high in *iron
*Iron has a low bioavailability, meaning that it has poor absorption within the small intestine and low retention in the body, decreasing its availability for use. The efficiency of absorption depends on the source of *iron, other components of the diet, gastrointestinal health, use of medications or supplements, and a person’s overall *iron status. In many countries, wheat products and infant formulas are fortified with *iron.
There are two types of dietary *iron – heme and non-heme. Most animal products, including seafood, contain both non-heme and heme *iron, with the latter easier to absorb as it is bound to protoporphyrin IX. Non-heme *iron sources include beans, nuts, vegetables and fortified grains.
The recommended *iron intake for vegetarians is 1.8 times higher than for those who eat meat in order to make up for the lower absorption level from plant-based foods. The bioavailability of *iron from omnivorous diets that include meat, seafood, and vitamin C is around 14-18%, while *iron bioavailability from a vegetarian diet is around 5-12%.4,5 Consuming vitamin C-rich foods alongside non-heme sources of *iron can dramatically increase *iron absorption.
clams tomatoes and shrimp
Clams contain a significant 24 mg of *iron per 3 oz.
Some of the best sources of iron include:
Clams, canned, 3 oz: 24 milligrams
Cereal, fortified, one serving: 1-22 milligrams
White beans, canned, 1 cup: 8 milligrams
Chocolate, dark, 45-69% cacao, 3 oz: 7 milligrams
Oysters, cooked, 3 oz: 6 milligrams
Spinach, cooked, 1 cup: 6 milligrams
Beef liver, 3 oz: 5 milligrams
Blueberries, frozen, ½ cup: 5 milligrams
Lentils, boiled and drained, ½ cup: 3 milligrams
Tofu, firm, ½ cup: 3 milligrams
Chickpeas, boiled and drained, ½ cup: 2 milligrams
Tomatoes, canned, stewed, ½ cup: 2 milligrams
Ground beef, lean, 3 oz: 2 milligrams
Potato, baked, medium: 2 milligrams
Cashew nuts, roasted, 1 oz: 2 milligrams
Egg, 1 large: 1 milligram.