Iron Benefits, Recommended Intake, Food Sources & Word of Caution

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This super mineral is very vital in the body. It’s a key nutrient that enables the body to perform its functions for normal growth and development. Moreover, iron matters for maintaining a healthy body, production of red blood cells, and it is an important ingredient for protein metabolism.

A better portion (about 70%) of the iron in the body is found in myoglobin and hemoglobin. The body has the ability to preserve about 25% of iron in ferritin for its backup plan, especially when there is a deficiency of this mineral in the body. The reason cases of anemia are many in women is because, ferritin stores iron supplementation for only one year in women whereas it has the capability to store iron supplementation for up to 3 years in men. The remaining 5% of iron is found in protein components that catalyze certain enzymatic reactions in the body.

Here are some of the greatest health benefits of iron that you should know:

1. Treating Iron Deficiency Anemia

When your body is lack of iron, you will be most likely to suffer from a disease called iron deficiency anemia. If you left it untreated, this would be really hazardous since you need a blood transfusion or intravenous iron therapy to cure it. If you want to avoid this disease, you need to make sure that you have sufficient amount of iron in your body. This disease is also the most common nutritional deficiency that could happen in the human body.

2. Brain Function

Iron is a very important mineral that is required for better functioning and development of all mammalian cells. It plays a significant role in the development of the brain and this is the reason pregnant moms are advised to increase the intake of iron.

Iron aids the transportation of blood to the cells, the brain uses approximately 20% of the total oxygen in the blood. Therefore iron is directly involved in brain health since it’s the one that ensures sufficient supply of oxygen. It also ensures the proper flow blood in all parts of the brain thereby stimulating brain activity and at the same time preventing disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases.

3. Improves Muscle Function

It is a vital element for muscle health. It is present in the muscle tissues and helps provide the supply of oxygen required for contraction of muscles. Without it, muscles lose their tone and elasticity; muscle weakness is one of the most obvious signs of anemia.

4. Fights Hair Loss

A European Journal of Dermatology study found that women can experience excessive hair loss due to iron deficiency. The study reported that low iron stores increase the rate of hair fall, especially in non-menopausal women. Iron also helps improve hair texture and reduces dullness by increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the hair roots and scalp.

5. Oxygen Carrier

One of the most important health benefits of iron is that it acts as a carrier of oxygen and helps transfer oxygen from one body cell to another. This is a critical function of iron as oxygen is required by each and every body part to perform routine body functions.

6. Immune Strength

One of the leading problems of aging individuals is the weakening of the immune system. According to Robert W. Griffith, MD, 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.

7. Metabolic Functions

Your metabolic function is important as it produces energy from the food you consume and supply it to other parts of your body. With the help of iron, your metabolism works faster, which also aids in weight loss.

8. Prevents Chronic Diseases

Iron boosts the circulation system and other organ processes. If there is sufficient iron in your body chronic diseases related to the intestine, blood, or the excretory system will be kept at bay. Add iron-rich diets to your plan and you will be able to stay healthy.

How Much Iron Do You Need?

The amount of iron you need each day depends on your age, your sex, and whether you consume a mostly plant-based diet. Average daily recommended amounts are listed below in milligrams (mg). Vegetarians who do not eat meat, poultry, or seafood need almost twice as much iron as listed in the table because the body doesn’t absorb nonheme iron in plant foods as well as heme iron in animal foods.

Read more about: Heme Iron vs. Non-Heme Iron in Food

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Iron

Life Stage

Recommended Amount

Birth to 6 months

0.27 mg

Infants 7-12 months

11 mg

Children 1-3 years

7 mg

Children 4-8 years

10 mg

Children 9-13 years

8 mg

Teens boys 14-18 years

11 mg
Teens girls 14-18 years

15 mg

Adult men 19-50 years

8 mg

Adult women 19-50 years

18 mg

Adults 51 years and older

8 mg

Pregnant teens

27 mg

Pregnant women

27 mg
Breastfeeding teens

10 mg

Breastfeeding women

9 mg

How Do You Get Enough Iron In Your Diet?

Getting enough iron in your diet is not difficult, you just need to make a conscious effort to eat foods high in iron. It can be a challenge to get children to eat foods that are high in iron since many of those foods are not kid’s favorites, but there are ways to ensure children get enough iron in their daily food intake.

Foods that are high in iron include: leafy green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, meats, seafood, chickpeas, soybeans, beans, lentils, raisins, apricots, nuts, peanut butter, and iron-fortified cereals, pastas, and breads.

One important way to increase your iron intake is to also eat foods that are high in Vitamin C, such as oranges since Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron as food is digested. A glass of orange juice with a high iron meal is an excellent way to ensure that you absorb the iron from foods that you eat.

Read more about: 14 Vegetarian Foods That Have More Iron Than Meat!

Word of Caution

In short, iron can be dangerous in high quantities. However, unless you have an iron overload disorder, you generally do not need to worry about getting too much iron from your diet.

Iron supplementation is another story. It benefits those who suffer from iron deficiency but may cause harm in those who are not iron-deficient. Never take iron supplements unless recommended by your doctor.

Sources & References:

Healthy Food MasterVitamins and Mineralsanemia,brain,hair,immune system,Iron,muscle function
Image source: Pixabay This super mineral is very vital in the body. It’s a key nutrient that enables the body to perform its functions for normal growth and development. Moreover, iron matters for maintaining a healthy body, production of red blood cells, and it is an important ingredient for protein...
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