Health & Wellness

Importance of Iron

A lot of us would have watched Popeye the sailor man at some point in our childhood; that was when we were introduced to the concept of iron – though taking some spinach in your diet wouldn’t give you the power to lift an entire ship, it surely hints about how helpful iron can be for giving us bodily strength.

Why is Iron so Important?

Scientifically speaking, iron makes up the heme component of red blood cells, which are important for transporting oxygen all over our body. If there isn’t sufficient iron in the body, the heme rings of the red blood cells (hemoglobin molecules) are not formed adequately. This ultimately results in a lack of oxygen circulation in the body. When this happens, we become deprived of the energy we need to function at our best throughout the day.

How Much Iron Should We Take?

The Recommended Daily Allowance of iron for men and postmenopausal women is 8 milligrams per day. As women of reproductive age have a monthly loss of blood, iron intake in larger amounts becomes essential to make up for the loss, increasing the RDA to 18 mg per day.

What Are the Consequences of Iron Deficiency?

Sadly, not a lot of people, specifically women of premenopausal age, meet this requirement daily, which leads to consequences like anemia.

Anemia is a red blood cell deficiency in which the body isn’t able to transport enough oxygen to the body. As a result, the body gets deprived of energy as oxygen deliverance is crucial to the formation and regulation of energy metabolism. The ATP molecules need oxygen as a carrier to complete the process of cellular respiration, which, if doesn’t occur, can cause the body to go into a fatigued state.

What are the Symptoms of Iron Deficiency?

This is why fatigue is the most prominent symptom of iron deficiency. Other symptoms include a pale appearance of skin that is termed as pallor in the medical language. In addition, brittle nails, feelings of agitation, and an inability to focus for a long time are evident symptoms in people deficient in the micronutrient. In some cases, people also complain of having pain in the body, mainly in the chest, and headaches are common. Fast heartbeat and dizziness are also some common symptoms associated with iron deficiency.

As you can see, most of the symptoms relate to disturbed cardiorespiratory function. This gives us an insight into how iron is critical for the functionality of our vital organs. Science elaborates it further by the fact that when there is depletion in the overall blood production and transport in the body, the heart has to work harder to compensate for the deficiency. This induces enormous pressure on the heart that, if not controlled, can even lead to heart failure.

This is quite an alarming thing to see, and for those who already have a low Hb serum level, this might be worrisome. However, there is always hope for everything.

Can We Increase Iron in our Body?

Nature has provided us with a lot of ways we can improve our hemoglobin levels if they are lower than the usual, for men 13.5 grams per deciliter and for women 12 grams per deciliter. The first and foremost route you should be adopting is through making dietary changes in your lifestyle. Include foods that are rich in iron.

Now, most of us would Google the list of foods rich in iron, but not many would see an important thing: There are two types of iron-containing foods.

Foods Containing Iron
  • Heme Iron Foods

    These are the foods derived from animal sources and are known to make iron for the hemoglobin molecule, therefore preventing iron-induced anemia. Foods in this list include meat, milk, and eggs.

  • Non-Heme Iron Foods

    These are the foods rich in non-heme iron. This is the iron you need to carry out functions of the body through iron other than the production of red blood cells. These iron-dependent functions include a complex chain of other Oxygen reactions in the body that are yet in the process of discovery. Some of them we have found include the roles they play in non-heme iron proteins like ferritin. The foods containing such iron include dark green vegetables like spinach, lentils, beans, and whole cereals.

As you can see, both animal and plant sources are rich in iron content, both heme and non-heme, that are important for cell metabolism and energy production. Your typical goal to increase oxygen must include taking heme and non-heme iron both, as one complements the absorption of the other.

Foods Rich in Iron
Food ItemIron Daily Value % per serving
Clams 3 oz12.67
Iron-fortified cereals, 1 oz10-11
Oysters, cooked 3oz44
Organ meats, cooked 3oz29-55
Soybeans, canned half cup24
White beans, canned half cup22
Lentils, cooked half cup18
Spinach, cooked from fresh, half cup18
Beef, bottom round, lean, cooked, 3 oz15.5
Kidney beans, cooked half cup14
Chickpeas, cooked half cup13

If your doctor prescribes you with iron supplements, it means you might have a deficiency that is not redeemable through a mere diet. You have to take supplements to increase your iron and retain your health. For taking supplements for iron, it is recommended you take them during your meals to enhance absorption.

How to Increase Iron Absorption?

It is a question that most people fail to consider when taking iron supplements. If you really want to get real benefits, it is recommended you take iron with food rich in protein and vitamin C. Also, avoid taking calcium supplements when you take iron supplements, so any negative nutrient-nutrient interaction doesn’t affect the binding of the molecules. If you take calcium supplements in the morning, take the iron at night and vice versa. Also, avoid taking caffeine with iron.

We recommend seeing a doctor and doing a blood test to see if you have any nutrient deficiency including iron before taking any supplements.

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