Iron: A Mineral That Keeps Anemia at Bay

Iron is an essential mineral for the normal production of blood. Read on to know more about the importance of iron, how much iron you need, and iron-rich foods

July 13, 2022

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Since ancient times, man has known about the special role played by iron in health and disease; however, the most important role of iron is the synthesis of hemoglobin (a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to various organs of the body). Discover more about the benefits of iron, iron-rich foods, and what happens if you don’t have sufficient iron in your body.

Role of Iron in your Body

Iron is an important mineral and is essential for normal blood production. Some of its functions are:

  • Production of red blood cells

  • Synthesis of connective tissue (collagen) and certain chemicals in the brain

  • Production of certain enzymes and hormones

What Happens if You are Deficient in Iron?

If you have lesser-than-normal iron in the body, you can develop a condition with fewer red blood cells, known as iron deficiency anemia.

Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are:

  • Headache and dizziness

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dry skin and hair

  • Palpitations

  • Soreness of mouth and tongue

  • Restless legs

  • Strange cravings, such as for ice, paper, dirt, or chalk (pica)

Poor diet, blood loss, or inability to absorb iron from food are some causes of iron deficiency anemia. Of note, women having periods or who are pregnant and young children are at a greater risk of iron deficiency anemia.

Is too much Iron Bad for Health?

Yes, higher-than-normal iron levels can be detrimental for health, especially in kids. A few side effects of high iron levels are:

  • Stomachache

  • Constipation

  • Vomiting

Higher levels of iron are usually caused by consuming an inappropriate dose of iron supplement.

How Much Iron Does Your Body Actually Need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iron depends on various factors. The RDA for various groups is mentioned below (Table1):

Table 1: RDA of iron

Age/gender

RDA in mg/day

7- 12 months

11

1- 3 years

7

4- 8 years

10

9- 13 years

8

14- 18 years (boys)

11

14- 18 years (girls)

15

Adult men

8

19- 50 years (women)

18

51 years and above (women)

8

Pregnant women

27

Lactation (14- 18)

10

Lactation ( 19- 50)

9

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Get Iron by consuming these Iron Rich foods

There are two main types of iron obtained from food. Iron found in animal sources is known as heme iron and that found in plants is known as non-heme iron. Sources for both are mentioned below

Heme iron:

  • Fish

  • Chicken

  • Lean beef

  • Turkey

  • Lean pork

Non-heme iron:

  • Coriander seeds

  • Soyabean

  • Amarnath seeds

  • Whole lentils

  • Parsley

  • Pumpkin leaves

  • Dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and prunes

  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach

Iron is an important mineral that plays an important role in producing red blood cells. Consume a variety of heme and non-heme iron to prevent iron deficiency anemia.

Interesting fact:

Iron helps remove carbon dioxide from the body!!

We have started an A-Z, blog-series on nutrients, covering all your vitals in one place! Write to us at info@labelblind.com if you would like a specific nutrient of interest to be covered, we would love to keep that as our priority!

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Rashida Vapiwala (Founder at LabelBlind®, Food Label Specialist, Ph.D (Food Science and Nutrition))

Rashida is passionate about solving problems for the food industry using technology. She loves creating tech-led solutions in the space of Nutrition.

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