Iron is a mineral found in human body and also in some of foods that we eat, it is a major component of the hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a type of protein in the red blood cell that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Without the presence of adequate amount of iron hemoglobin cannot be produced and this can lead to anemia. Anemia is a health condition that occurs when there is no enough hemoglobin in the blood. Having anemia means you are “Anemic”.
Iron is also part of myoglobin, a protein that carries and stores oxygen specifically in the muscle tissues. Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency worldwide, causing extreme fatigue or lightheadedness, it affects individuals of all ages. Iron is important for healthy brain development and growth in children and for normal production of various cells and hormones.
Iron is stored in the body as ferritin (in the liver, spleen, muscle, tissues and bone marrow) and is delivered throughout the body by transferrin (a protein in the blood that binds iron).
Signs you have iron deficiency
If your body does not absorb its needed amount of iron, it becomes deficient. Here are some signs of iron deficiency
- Weakness and brittle nails
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Constant tiredness and fatigue
- Rapid or irregular heart beat
- Pale skin and growth problems
- Chest pain
- Increase susceptibility to infection
- Craving for non-food item like ice or dirt
- Feeling cold.
Health benefits of iron
- Boost immunity: Iron plays an important role to improve the immune system. The immune system helps the body to fight against a number of diseases and infections. Red blood cells are necessary to provide oxygen to damaged tissue, organs and cells. Without the red blood cell there will be no hemoglobin; without hemoglobin there will be no oxygen flow in the body.
- Helps to improve concentration: Consuming adequate amount of iron can help to improve concentration and boost cognitive performance and also increase blood flow to the brain.
- Improve energy levels: Iron is important for the production of certain enzymes involved in metabolism and the delivery of oxygen. Iron is the key player in metabolism. Metabolism is the process of turning food we consume into adenosine triphosphate (ATP)- the body’s unit of energy. These requires a lot of different enzymes and energy.
- Helps with oxygen transport: Without the presence of iron in the body hemoglobin cannot be produced and these result in the production of abnormal blood cells. This in turn struggles to carry sufficient oxygen to the tissues and organs of the body. Therefore, getting enough iron from the food we eat is very important.
- Boost Hemoglobin formation: The importance of iron is for the formation of hemoglobin; the presence of iron helps in the transportation of oxygen to the body cells as well. Hemoglobin is important because a lot of people loose blood in various ways either internal or external through injuries and menstruation. Menstruating women lose some amount of blood every month which is one of the reasons menstruating women are more likely to suffer from anemia than men.
Foods sources of iron
Food sources of iron is divided into:
Heme iron: is easily absorbed and it is therefore a large source of dietary iron for people both with and without hemochromatosis. It is found in animal flesh.
Non-heme: It is usually less readily absorbed than heme iron. Especially in people without hemochromatosis, non-heme iron tends not to be a big source of dietary iron. It is found in plant foods
Heme iron food sources
- Canned light tuna
- Canned sardines
- Beef or chicken liver
- Oysters, clams and mussel
Non-heme iron foods sources
- Nuts, seeds
- Enriched rice or bread
- Potatoes with skin
- Dark chocolate
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Those at risk of iron deficiency
- Pregnant women
- Menstruating women with heavy flow
- Children and infants
- Endurance athletes
- People with chronic kidney failure or dialysis
- Frequent blood donor
- People who have undergone gastric surgery
- Those taking iron depleting medication used to reduce stomach acid.
Iron is an important mineral of the body; it is a major component of the hemoglobin. Low iron levels are common but it can progress into iron deficiency if left untreated and this can lead to anemia. Iron deficiency only occurs when there is low level of iron in the body.
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