Iron belongs to the class of minerals called trace elements. These are needed by the body in a smaller amount and are very essential.

Foods, packed with iron; image source: ghanalive.tv

Iron is found in all living cells in the body and plays vital role as far as good health is concerned.

So, if you have been shaving off diets rich in iron ignorantly or otherwise, this article will help change your orientation and prompt you to start doing what is necessary.

Though iron is not the only trace element or mineral the body needs; but in this article, we shall talk solely about iron.

Who Needs Iron?

Everyone does. You need iron to maintain good health and in case there isn’t enough iron in the body the body cannot generate enough red blood cells to transport oxygen.

Iron deficiency, on the other hand, is the leading cause of anemia, which means that one has a little amount of hemoglobin responsible for the red blood cells’ color.

Women that have gotten to the childbearing years will need to replenish iron in their system constantly. The reason is that they lose too much blood during menstruation, which exposes them to a higher risk of iron deficiency.

The table below indicates the different category of people, as well as their minimum and maximum iron needs on daily basis.

Age Group (Years) Min. amount (mg)per day Max. amount (mg) per day
1 19 and above (Men) 8 45
2 19 – 50 (Women) 18 45
3 51 and above (Women 8 45
4 19 – 50 (Pregnant women) 27 45
5 19 – 50 (Breastfeeding women) 9 450

Before looking at the benefits of consuming foods with iron, let us take a close look at foods that contain iron and their proportions.

10 Foods that contain iron naturally

  Animal sources Proportion of iron (milligrams)
1 Lamb various cuts (cooked) 1.3 -2.1
2 Beef various cuts (cooked) 1.4-3.3
3 Chicken various cuts (cooked) 0.4 -2.0
4 Pork various cuts (cooked) 0.5 -1.5
5 Liver (organ meat) 13.4
6 Kidney (organ meat) 9.3
7 Octopus (cooked) 7.2
8 Moose (cooked) 2.5 – 3.8
9 Yogurt 2.1
10 Turkey various cuts (cooked) 0.3-0.8

 

Plant sources Proportion of iron (mg)
1 Spinach 2.0 – 3.4
2 Tomato puree 2.4
3 Prune juice 1.6
4 Beets, canned 1.6
5 Cereal (all types) 4.0 – 4.3
6 Oatmeal (cooked) 4.5 – 6.6
7 Apricot (dried) 1.6
8 Snow peas (cooked) 1.7
9 Asparagus (raw) 2.1
10 Lima beans (cooked) 2.2

Why Is Iron so essential?

Maintain Healthy Pregnancy

Pregnant women need to consume foods that supply enough iron to the body. The reason being that they do not only make use of the iron alone but needs to constantly meet the iron needs of the placenta as well as the fetus.

Besides consuming iron-packed foods, pregnant women can also meet their daily iron needs by taking prenatal multivitamins.

According to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency is one of the leading causes of infant mortality, low birth-weight and premature.

Proper Muscle Function

Iron helps in storing oxygen in the muscles. This helps in movement and strengthening of muscles. A good percentage of iron present in the body is found in the red blood cells known as hemoglobin, together with muscle cells known as myoglobin.

The transportation of blood from the lungs to tissues is done by hemoglobin. While myoglobin present in muscle cells help to accept, store, transport and release oxygen. Myoglobin cannot hold oxygen without iron. And without oxygen, the cells will not be able to function properly.

Proper Brain Function

The brain is wired to work properly when enough oxygen is available. But if enough iron is not present in the required amount to transport oxygen, it will be impossible for the brain to function to capacity.

This leads to poor memory, apathy and decreased productivity. And in children, it causes them to become restless, irritable and they find it hard to pay attention in class.

Conclusion

Consuming foods rich in iron is a good way of replenishing iron in the body. So now that we have understood the benefits and adverse effect of not having enough iron can cause, it is now left for us to do the right thing.

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