Beginner’s Guide: Iron
Iron is an essential mineral that our bodies need to function properly. It’s found in hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in our blood, and in myoglobin, which helps our muscles store oxygen. Iron also plays a role in many important biochemical processes.
Although it’s possible to get too much iron, most people don’t get enough. In fact, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about iron, including its function in the body, food sources, supplementation, side effects, interactions, and more.
What does Iron do in the Body?
As we mentioned above, iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in many biochemical processes in the body. Here are some of the most important functions of iron:
Carries oxygen in the blood: Oxygen is essential for all cellular activity in the body. Iron essentially acts as a chauffeur, carrying oxygen around to all the cells that need it.
Helps muscles store oxygen: In addition to carrying oxygen in the blood, iron also helps our muscles store oxygen so that they can use it when they need it.
Plays a role in cell growth and development: Iron is involved in DNA synthesis and cell growth and differentiation. This means that it’s essential for proper immune system function and wound healing.
Helps enzymes work properly: Enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions in the body. Many enzymes require iron to function properly.
Food Sources & Supplementation
Iron Rich Foods
There are two forms of dietary iron: heme and non-heme iron.
Heme iron, which makes up 40 percent of the iron in meat, poultry, and fish, is well absorbed by the body.
Non-heme iron, on the other hand, which makes up 60 percent of the iron in plant foods and supplements and all of the iron added to fortified foods and beverages (like breakfast cereal), is less well absorbed.
Because of this, vegans and vegetarians are at risk for developing iron deficiency anemia (IDA).
The best way to get enough iron is through diet; however, some people may need to take supplements as well.
Good food sources of iron include:
Red meat is an excellent source of iron. Beef, pork, and lamb are all rich in this essential mineral. Just 3 ounces of cooked beef contains 3 mg of iron.
Poultry is also a good source of iron. Chicken and turkey are both excellent sources of this mineral. Three ounces of cooked chicken contains 1 mg of iron, while the same amount of turkey contains 2 mg.
Fish is another excellent source of iron. Salmon, tuna, and halibut are all rich in this essential mineral. Three ounces of cooked salmon contains 1 mg of iron, while the same amount of tuna contains 2 mg.
Tofu is a good vegetarian source of iron. Just one cup of tofu contains 6 mg of this essential mineral.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are also good sources of iron. Black beans, kidney beans, and lentils are all excellent choices. One cup of black beans contains 3 mg of iron, while the same amount of kidney beans contains 4 mg.
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that is an excellent source of iron. Just one cup of cooked spinach contains 6 mg of this mineral.
Swiss chard is another leafy green vegetable that is a good source of iron. One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains 3 mg of this mineral.
Collard greens are another type of leafy green vegetable that is a good source of iron. One cup of cooked collard greens contains 4 mg of this mineral.
Kale is a nutrient-rich leafy green vegetable that is an excellent source of iron. Just one cup of cooked kale contains 6 mg of this essential mineral.
Turkey is a good source of iron, providing about 0.7 mg per 3-ounce serving. It is also a good source of protein, zinc, and B vitamins.
To improve iron absorption, it is recommended to consume iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or tomatoes. Including a variety of iron-rich foods in your diet is the best way to ensure you are getting enough of this important mineral.
Possible side effects or interactions
Iron is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in many bodily functions. However, too much iron can be dangerous, and iron can interact with other medications and supplements. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects and interactions of iron.
Taking too much iron can lead to iron toxicity, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. In severe cases, iron toxicity can lead to organ damage and even death. Therefore, it is important to only take iron supplements as directed by a doctor or health care professional.
Iron can also interact with other medications and supplements. For example, taking iron with antacids or calcium supplements can decrease the absorption of iron. In addition, iron may interact with certain blood pressure medications and cholesterol-lowering drugs. Therefore, it is important to speak to a doctor or pharmacist before taking iron supplements or medications.
Iron is an essential mineral that our bodies need for many important biochemical processes. Most people don’t get enough iron through diet alone and may need to supplement with this nutrient. When taking an iron supplement be sure to do so with Vitamin C and avoid drinking tea or coffee since these beverages can inhibit absorption of this essential mineral into your system!
Most people can get enough iodine by eating a varied diet or by using iodized salt when cooking. However, people with certain health conditions may need to take supplements. Iodine is generally safe when taken in appropriate amounts but can cause side effects when taken in high doses. Speak with your doctor if you think you might need an iodine supplement.
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