Iron Benefits: Everything You Need to Know
Iron benefits are undeniable. This is a vital mineral for a healthy body and mind. Iron is an essential mineral responsible for many functions in the human body. From sustaining healthy skin, hair and nails, as well as working to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP; the body's main energy source), iron is one mineral we can't live without. But it may be the fact that it's the main carrier of oxygen throughout the human body that makes it most essential. Too much or too little can wreak havoc on your health.
What Happens When You're Lacking
Hemoglobin mainly consists of nearly two-thirds of iron found in the human body. Hemoglobin is a substance found in red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs and transporting it throughout the body.
If you're lacking in iron, then your body won't be able to make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and without enough healthy red blood cells, your body won't get the oxygen it needs.
This is known as iron deficiency anemia. Based on statistics presented by The World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the leading nutritional disorder worldwide, while The National Institutes of Health states that, "...as many as 80% of the world's population may be iron deficient, while 30% may have iron deficiency anemia."
"If you're not getting sufficient oxygen in the body, you're going to become fatigued. That exhaustion can affect everything from your brain function to your immune system's ability to fight off infections. If you're pregnant, severe iron deficiency may increase your baby's risk of being born too early, or smaller than normal, says Paul Thomas, EdD, RD, a scientific consultant to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.
If you're anemic, you may have the following symptoms:
- shortness of breath
- pale skin
- difficulty concentrating
- have cold hands and feet
- have sores in the corner of your mouth
- hair loss
- brittle nails
- fast heartbeat
- muscle fatigue
- sore tongue
- difficulty swallowing
- a weakened immune system
17 Surprising Pluses
Iron Benefits: Boosts Hemoglobin Formation
Formation of hemoglobin is the chief function of this mineral. Not only that, since it is a part of hemoglobin, it aids in transporting oxygen to the body cells as wells. Additional
hemoglobin is vitally important because human beings tend to lose blood
in various ways, through injuries, both internal and external. Most
notably, women lose considerable amounts of blood every month during
their menstruation years, which is one of the major reasons why women are more likely to suffer from anemia than men.
Iron Benefits: Improves Muscle Function
is a vital element for muscle health. It is present in the muscle
tissues and helps provide the supply of oxygen required for contraction
of muscles. Without it, muscles lose their tone and elasticity; muscle
weakness is one of the most obvious signs of anemia.
Iron Benefits: Increases Brain Function
Increased development of the brain is also one of the many benefits of iron. Since oxygen supply
in the blood is aided by iron and the brain uses approximately 20% of
the blood oxygen, it is directly related to brain health and its
functions. Proper flow of blood in the brain can stimulate cognitive
activity and help create new neural pathways to prevent cognitive
disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, so iron intake and its subsequent brain oxygenation is essential.
Iron Benefits: Treats Restless Leg Syndrome
Iron deficiency is one of the causes of the restless leg syndrome. Low level of it in the blood is a major
cause of the condition, so proper intake of its supplements in required
levels as per the doctor’s recommendations can cure this problem. This
is connected to muscle spasms, which can be one of the symptoms of
Iron Benefits: Regulates Body Temperature
Iron is an important facilitator for regulating body temperature. An interesting fact is that it has the ability to
regulate itself as per the absorption capacity of the body. Keeping the
body temperature stable means that the enzymatic and metabolic functions
can happen in their most optimal and efficient environment and
Iron Benefits: Oxygen Carrier
One of the most important health benefits of iron is that it acts as a carrier of oxygen and thus participates in transferring oxygen from one cell to
another. This is a vital function of iron, as oxygen is required by
each and every organ system to perform routine functions.
Iron Benefits: Treats Anemia
Iron is helpful in the treatment of a severe disorder called iron deficiency anemia, which results from a lack of it in the human
body. This is where most of these health benefits come from, as a result
of preventing this terrible disease that affects millions of people
around the world. Anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency on
Iron Benefits: Cures Chronic Diseases
Iron also helps in the treatment of chronic disorders like renal failure anemia, and other chronic diseases of the intestinal and excretory
system. These are not related to blood necessarily, like most other iron
functions, but it is still a key part of many necessary processes
throughout the body’s systems, not just the circulatory system.
Iron Benefits: Treats Anemia in Women
Iron may also exhibit its health benefits in curing anemia that occurs in women during pregnancy or menstruation. New red blood cells must
replace those that have been lost, so consuming significant amounts of
it is necessary for women at those points in their lives.
Iron Benefits: Neurotransmitter Synthesis
It actively takes part in the synthesis of a number of essential neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These
chemicals play a major role in different activities involving neurons
and the human brain.
Iron Benefits: Treats Predialysis Anemia
It is suggested by health experts that iron is capable of treating another form of anemia called predialysis anemia. However, it is a good idea to consult a medical expert as it can be very complicated and dangerous.
Iron Benefits: Reduces Fatigue
Health benefits of iron also include the elimination of unexplained or chronic fatigue, which may occur in both men and women.
Its deficiency is a natural cause of fatigue since it is an important
component of hemoglobin.
Iron Benefits: Boosts Immunity
Iron plays a
key role in providing strength to the immune system. Thus, the body is
made proficient enough to fight against a number of diseases and
infections. Red blood cells are necessary for providing oxygen to
damaged tissues, organs, and cells. Without it, there would be no
hemoglobin; without hemoglobin, there would be no oxygen. The healing
process needs this essential nutrient to happen.
Iron Benefits: Promotes Energy Metabolism
It is an important participant in energy metabolism in the human body. This process is how energy is
extracted from the consumed food and subsequently distributed to
different body parts.
Iron Benefits: Supports Organ Systems
Iron happens to be the most important constituent of various enzymatic systems and
other important constituents like myoglobin, cytochromes, and catalase.
Without this functioning properly, a number of organ systems would slow
Iron Benefits: Treats Insomnia
It is useful in treating insomnia and it improves the sleeping habits of people by regulating their
circadian rhythms. Proper red blood cell count can also result in less
fluctuation of blood pressure, which can often keep people awake at
Iron Benefits: Improves Concentration
Iron, when consumed in sufficient amounts, can help improve concentration and boost the cognitive performance. An increased flow of blood to the brain is what results in this important benefit. ~parts adapted via OrganicFacts.net
How to Get More Iron
Iron can be found in a variety of foods, some meat-based (known as
heme), while others are plant-based (nonheme). Here are some examples:
- found in plant-based foods, such as beans and lentils
- iron-fortified cereals
- red meats
problem lies not in what you eat, but in how well your body absorbs
nutrients, and iron can be tricky. The absorption of iron can be
affected by several factors. Even though most foods contain nonheme
iron, it's heme iron that gets absorbed easier in the body.
Additionally, most healthy adults absorb about 10 - 15% of the iron they
Those at most risk of iron deficiency are athletes
who train frequently and at high intensity. Vegetarians may be at risk
because their diet may lack in iron-rich foods. Also at risk are:
- those who suffer from renal failure
- those who suffer from gastrointestinal disorders and can't absorb iron efficiently
- pregnant women
- women with heavy menstrual cycles
There are ways to boost your body's absorption of iron. For example:
- eat foods that contain high levels of Vitamin C (as strawberries, oranges, broccoli, peppers) with iron-rich foods
- combine 2 iron-rich foods together, such as beans and ground beef
- cook food in stainless steel pots or cast iron skillets
supplements. Speak with your doctor about which supplement best meets
your needs because iron supplements can cause various side effects, as
nausea, diarrhea or constipation, and dark stools.
On the other hand, if most of your foods contain nonheme iron, it's better to decrease your intake of drinks that contain tannin, such as coffee, tea and wine, because they further decrease the absorption of iron.
The daily recommended allowance is as follows:
- men, 19-years old and over: 8mg/day
- women, 18 - 51 years old: 18 mg/day
- pregnant women: 27 mg/day
- breastfeeding women: 10 mg/day
- women, over the age of 51: 8 mg/day
An interesting fact about iron is that infants are born with a 6-month supply which means they require less amounts than adults. As we grow and develop, the lifestyle choices we make concerning food affect how our body absorbs and benefits from iron. But the importance of this mineral cannot be stressed enough, mainly because lack of it causes a slew of serious health problems.
Take a good look at your diet, see which foods you'd like to add more of or do without all together. Another good tip is to make sure your food combinations enhance the absorption of iron, rather than diminish it.
If you feel like you may be iron deficient, talk to your doctor about getting a blood test and a supplement that helps replenish iron levels.
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