Iron is a mineral that is crucial for the proper functioning of hemoglobin - it is a protein that is extremely important for the transport of oxygen in the blood. Iron also plays a role in many other important processes in the body.
Iron deficiency in the blood can cause a number of serious health problems, including iron deficiency anemia. About 10 million people in the United States have low iron levels - usually due to iron deficiency anemia.
The recommended daily intake (RDA) depends on the age and sex of the person. Vegetarians also have different iron needs.
0 to 6 months: 0.27 milligrams (mg)
7 to 12 months: 11 mg
1 to 3 years: 7 mg
4 to 8 years: 10 mg
9 to 13 years: 8 mg
14 to 18 years: 11 mg
19 years and older: 8 mg
9 to 13 years: 8 mg
14 to 18 years: 15 mg
19 to 50 years: 18 mg
51 years and older: 8 mg
During pregnancy: 27 mg
For breast-feeding between 14 and 18 years of age: 10 mg
For breast-feeding in the elderly from 19 years: 9 mg
Iron supplements can be helpful when people find it difficult to get enough iron through dietary measures alone, such as a plant-based diet. It is better to try to get enough iron by eliminating or reducing factors that can interfere with iron absorption and eating foods rich in iron.
This is because many iron-rich foods also contain a range of other beneficial nutrients that together support overall health.
Iron helps maintain many vital functions in the body, including overall energy and focus, digestive processes, the immune system, and body temperature regulation.
The benefits of iron often go unnoticed until a person suffers from a deficiency. Iron deficiency anemia can cause fatigue, heart palpitations, pale skin and shortness of breath.
Iron is important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Blood volume and red blood cell production increase dramatically during pregnancy to supply the growing fetus with oxygen and nutrients. As a result, the need for iron also increases. While the body usually increases iron absorption during pregnancy, too little iron intake or other factors that affect the way iron is absorbed can cause iron deficiency.
Low iron intake during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, as well as low iron stores and cognitive or behavioral disorders in infants. Pregnant women with low iron content may be more prone to infections, as iron also supports the immune system.
It is clear that iron supplements are needed for women who are pregnant and iron deficient. However, research is still underway on the possibility of recommending extra iron to all pregnant women, including those with normal iron levels. It is claimed that all pregnant women should take 30 to 60 milligrams (mg) of iron supplements every day of pregnancy, regardless of pre-existing iron levels.
A lack of iron in the diet can affect the efficiency with which the body uses energy. Iron carries oxygen to the muscles and brain and is crucial for mental and physical performance. Low iron levels can lead to a lack of concentration, increased irritability and decreased endurance.
Iron deficiency is more common in athletes, especially young athletes, than in individuals who do not live an active lifestyle.
This seems to be especially true for endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners. Some experts suggest adding an extra 10 mg of iron a day to endurance athletes.
Iron deficiency in athletes reduces athletic performance and weakens the activity of the immune system. Hemoglobin deficiency can greatly reduce performance during physical exertion, as it reduces the body's ability to carry oxygen to the muscles.
Iron has low bioavailability, which means that the small intestine does not abseasily absorbs large amounts of this element. This reduces its availability and increases the likelihood of shortages.
The efficiency of absorption depends on a number of factors, including:
In many countries, wheat products and infant formulas are fortified with iron.
There are two types of dietary iron, known as heme and non-heme iron. Animal food sources, including meat and seafood, contain heme iron. Hemic iron is more easily absorbed by the body.
Non-heme iron found in plants requires the body to perform several steps to be successfully absorbed by the body. Plant sources of iron include beans, nuts, soy, vegetables and fortified cereals.
The bioavailability of heme iron from animal sources can be up to 40 percent. However, heme-free iron from plant sources has a bioavailability of between 2 and 20 percent. For this reason, the RDA for vegetarians is 1.8 times higher than for those who eat meat to compensate for the lower rate of absorption from plant foods.
Eating vitamin C-rich foods in addition to non-heme iron sources can dramatically increase iron absorption.
In a vegetarian diet, it is important to consider food ingredients in combination with drugs that block or reduce iron absorption, such as:
Canned mussels: 3 ounces (or) provide 26 milligrams (mg) of iron.
Enriched, plain, dry cereal oats: 100 g provides 24.72 mg.
White beans: one cup provides 21.09.
Dark chocolate (45 to 69 percent cocoa): One bar contains 12.99 mg.
Cooked Pacific Oysters: 3 oz. provides 7.82 mg.
Cooked spinach: one cup contains 6.43 mg.
Beef liver: 3 oz provide 4.17 mg.
Boiled and drained lentils: half a cup contains 3.3 mg.
Hard tofu: half a cup contains 2.03 mg.z
Cooked and drained chickpeas: half a cup contains 2.37 mg.
Canned braised tomatoes: half a cup contains 1.7 mg.
Lean, minced beef: 3 oz provides 2.07 mg.
Medium Baked Potatoes: This provides 1.87 mg.
Roasted cashews: 3 oz provides 2 mg.
1 oz value
1 oz = approx. 28.35 g
Calcium may slow the absorption of heme and non-heme iron. In most cases, the typical varied Western-style diet is considered balanced in terms of iron-boosting and absorption-enhancing agents.
Follow our e-news and be informed about the benefits and promotional vouchers you can save.