IRON: sources, uses, deficiency and supplements

Iron is a mineral vital to the proper functioning of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood. It also has a role in a variety of other important processes in the body. A shortage of iron in the blood can lead to a range of serious health problems, including iron deficiency anemia.

Iron promotes healthy pregnancy, increase energy, and better athletic performance. Deficiency in iron is more common in females athletes. And too much iron can increase the risk of liver cancer and diabetes.

Sources of Iron

Your body can store iron but it can’t make it by itself. The only way to get iron is from the food we eat. There are 2 types of iron in food: Heme and Non- heme. Heme iron, found in meat, poultry and seafood, is absorbed more effectively than non-heme iron, which is found in eggs and plant foods.

Common animal-based sources of iron include:

  • Liver (chicken, lamb).
  • Sardines.
  • Kangaroo.
  • Beef.
  • Lamb.
  • Egg (chicken).
  • Duck.
  • Canned salmon.

Plant-based sources of iron contain non- heme iron. Common sources include:

  • Legumes (such as lentils, beans and chickpeas).
  • Firm tofu.
  • Tempeh.
  • Pumpkin seed (pepitas) and sunflower seeds.
  • Nuts, especially cashews and almonds.
  • Whole grain such as oats or muesil, wholemeal bread, brown rice, amaranth and quinoa.
  • Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach and green peas.
  • Dried apricots.

Uses

Common uses of iron in the body are as follows:

  • Treat Anemia: iron is helpful for treating anemia which is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world. Anemia results when hemoglobin is below normal ranges.
  • Boosts Hemoglobin: one of the uses of iron is to form hemoglobin, a red protein, whose main purpose is to transport oxygen in the blood. Additional hemoglobin is important because human lose blood in many ways, especially from injuries. Women lose blood every month during their menstrual cycles, which is one of the most common reasons women may be more likely to suffer from anemia.
  • Boost immunity: iron plays in important role in strengthening the immune system. It promotes hemoglobin which provides oxygen to damaged cells, tissue and organs. A strong immune system is able to fight against disease and infections. Therefore without iron the healing process cannot start.
  • Improves muscle strength: muscle weakness and low iron are linked. Adequate levels of iron help provide the necessary oxygen for muscle contraction.

Iron Deficiency

Every organ and tissue in your body needs oxygen to work. Red blood cells are the transport system that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. When you have anemia, your body doesn’t have enough of these blood cells. You get iron deficiency anemia when your body is low in iron.

You need to make hemoglobin a protein that helps your red blood cells carry oxygen. Without enough oxygen in your blood, you feel tired, weak and short of breath.

Supplements and Toxicity

Iron is a mineral that’s necessary for life. It plays a key role in the making of red blood cells, which carry oxygen. You can get iron from food and from supplements. If you don’t have enough iron, you may develop anemia, a low level of red blood cells.

Iron supplements are most often used for certain types of anemia. Anemia can cause fatigue and other symptoms. Supplements are often prescribed to treat anemia caused by

Iron toxicity occurs when the body has too much iron. The most common cause of iron toxicity is accidental overdose of iron pills.

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