Iron is one of the major nutrient that ensures that the body grows to its full potential. It is also one of the few nutrient that can be directly acquired by a balanced diet. Proper quantity of quality iron-rich edible intake ensures proper growth and better functioning of all our systems and as a result promotes the creation of proteins that transport oxygen and regulate cell development. Doctors suggest the adequate intake of iron content for people of ages especially for women at the stage of pregnancy. This itself is a evidence to the fact that the baby needs iron content from an early stage of development. Up to a period of six months the tiny little tots are adapted to absorb iron content present within the breast milk- the reason why pregnant mothers are advised not to be deprived of iron-rich food. After this stage the child usually start with the solid foods in a light manner. These food given to the little ones during their early stages is the one which makes up the foundation of the development and growth of the child. It is a mandatory to make sure that this food is nutritionally efficient and iron-rich so that it can add to the health of the baby.
The function of dietary iron in our body
Iron is necessary for the adequate production of quality red blood cells and the content of haemoglobin, a pigment that gives blood its colour, also depends on the amount of iron intake of the body. Iron also indirectly help in the smooth running of the respiratory system, as the process of purification of blood in the lungs by transfer of gases happen due to the help of red blood cells, whose production as mentioned earlier has iron content as a factor. Myoglobin is a protein produced within the human body, which help in the proper growth of the muscles. Major content of myoglobin being iron, iron-rich food also help in the development of the muscular system of the body. Iron is required again in a variety of areas such as for physical and neurological growth, proper functioning of the body at the cellular level and also in the hormonal balance. Iron is also responsible for the correct functioning of the immune system and prevent other diseases from attacking the body
The iron content in food is of two types, namely heme and nonheme. The plant based food contains non-heme iron content while those from meat based food contains heme iron content. The consumed iron in the body is stored mostly within the haemoglobin. The remaining portion of the consumed iron content is encapsulated within the liver, spleen, and bone marrow or participates in the creation of myoglobin later stored in muscle tissue. Only a small amount of the iron intake is lost through the process of defecation. But the loss of iron content is much larger in women within the age of menstruation cycle than of any other gender or people at any time period. This is the reason why some doctors suggest greater intake of iron by women than men.
Thinking about the consequence of iron deprivation?
Harvard University have cited that about 25% of the total population of the world have a low level of iron content in their body. This iron deficiency in blood can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of them are listed below:
- Due to limited intake of iron-rich food
- Living in an environment where availability of iron-rich food is rare
- Infectious diseases, and sometimes the inflammatory diseases too at last end up making the body deprived of iron content.
- During the term of some infectious diseases there is a chance of blood loss which eventually lead to the reduction of iron content in the body
- Deficiency of other nutrients such as fibre content in the body can also sometimes add up to the reduction of iron content.
If the haemoglobin content of the body reduces significantly, the tissues and , muscles would get impoverished with oxygen content and the effective one can perform shall reduce. This then ends up in fatigue, extra ordinary tiredness and a condition called anaemia
Nominal intake of iron content for different age groups
milligrams of iron required per day
Infant growth till 6 months
7 months to an year age
1-3 years of age
Ages above 50
An exception is observed in the age group of 14 to 50. This is the age when the females have their menstrual life. During the menstrual stage women demand higher amount of iron intake of almost 15 mg during the initial phase and then 18mg at the latter phase.
Another exception that is seen is during the gestation period and the lactation period for women. Here too, they demand a bit higher level of iron content in their body as they have loss of the same in many manner.
There are groups of people observed to be at risk during the iron deficiency phase. This include infants and young children, women with heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent blood donors, cancer patients, people who have had gastrointestinal diseases or those who have undergone surgery for the same and people who have heart related issues are the major groups under this category.
To meet the needs of the foetus and to cope up with the blood loss during delivery, women require higher amounts of iron content. If not met, can lead to an anaemic mother and a foetus.
As mentioned if the mother during the gestation period and at the time of delivery turns out to be anaemic, the infant thus born will also end up being the same and falls under the risk category.
As per studies conducted almost 25% of the total blood donors, have shown higher risks of being anaemic. It is calculated that it takes 24 days for the iron lost during donation to replenish back. But in some cases like that of women in the menstrual phase, iron supplements will have to be given in order to save them from the risk of being anaemic.
In cancer patients in addition to the blood loss that occur naturally during the disease phase chemotherapy induced anaemia is also visible. Almost 40% of the cancer patients are said to be affected by this.
Blood donors are often restrained from doing so due to the low iron content in their body. If you have ever experienced this, then it’s high time for you to have some of these iron-rich food items
- Eggs: A medium sized egg is found have almost 1.89 mg of iron content in it. This helps in maintaining the haemoglobin level in the blood and thus help in maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Spinach: Most of us would have watched the cartoon poppie at least once in our lifetime. If you haven’t watched it then do have a glance where he gets instant energy from eating spinach. Spinach along with being a good antioxidant, it is a good source of non-heme iron content, which although won’t get absorbed by the body have great nutritional values. Having a daily serving of spinach recipes can provide you with almost 15 % of the daily required amount of iron content in a human body.
- Organ meats : Organ meat apart from being scrumptious, is also a great source of dietary iron content. Organ meat category includes the liver, kidney, brain and other edible organs of animals. It can account you with almost 36% of the daily iron requirement
- Beans : It is one of the veggies that bear the highest amount of iron content. But there are a lot kind of beans. Now the confusion arises which is the best? This is a question of point. Not every bean has the same amount of iron content in it. For instance the soybeans has is the most iron-rich among the beans. It holds almost 49% of the daily quota of iron requirement. Then follows the lentils with 37% , kidney beans with 29%, chickpeas with 26%, lima beans with 25% and black beans with 20% of iron content.
- Red meat: Red meat contains large amount of heme iron which is easily absorbed by the body. These are the best to be consumed by mothers iunder breast feeding so as to benefit herself and the child.
- Molluscs: Molluscs are the highest source of iron content among the sea foods. Oysters are one of the famous and widely accepted form of edible molluscs.
- Shell fishes: Some of the shell fishes such as shrimp and crab also serves as granary for iron content within the sea. It serves to almost 25-35 % of the total daily iron requirement
- Fin fishes- Though the finfishes do not account to as much as the other seafoods in the context of iron content, the do perish the daily requirement to a greater extend. Tuna and mackerel are the most seen fin fishes used for acquiring better iron content.
- Pistachio: among the edible nuts available in market, pistachios is famous for its rich iron content. It accounts for 14mg of iron for every 100 g of pistachios.
- Dulse: Dulse is a sea vegetable which is one of the highest iron source among plants. Being rich in other nutrients too, it is one of the must go content in a salad next time.
- Blackstrap molasses: In sugarcane manufacturing the white crystals are removed and the remaining portion of nutrient filled sugarcane is concentrated to form blackstrap molasses. Along with other minerals it is also rich in iron content accounting to about 7mg of iron content in a single tablespoon of the concentrate.
- Cereals : Every busy household shall look on for a healthy cereal as breakfast, as they don’t want to skip the same. Cereals are not as simple they are seen. It is filled with a variety of nutrients, minerals and a high content of iron. It is accounted by famous brands as the packed cereal boxes has 9.8mg of iron content per serving.
- Pumpkin seeds: Planning to waste the leftover pumpkin seeds from Halloween day? I would rather say no, don’t do that. It contains a lot of iron content of about 2.7mg that can meet a better portion of a human’s daily iron needs.
- Sesame seeds: The white little seeds on the burger buns are much healthier than the burger itself. Yes you heard it right. It is inferred that a tablespoon of these seeds is home to about 1.31mg of iron components. Next time, adding this to your salad can increase your bod’s iron content naturally.
- Quinoa: This tiny little grain otherwise called the pseudo-cereal when cooked, accommodate almost 2.8mg of iron per serving.
As mentioned throughout the article, iron is one of the essential part that should be included within a balanced diet for everyone irrespective of gender or age. It is with this consciousness that many companies throughout the world has come out with iron supplements for babies as well as for the adults. The riskier group as mentioned are the ones who needs at most care in the case of deficiency. As per an old proverb, prevention is better than cure having a healthy life with nutrient-rich diet, having adequate levels of iron it can help you escape many diseases.