Iron is a mineral that our bodies need to function properly. It has a low bioavailability meaning it is poorly absorbed from the gut, That is why we must rely on natural foods to fill our Iron stores and prevent Iron deficiency anemia which is a huge problem that affects a lot of people all over the world.
Most of the Iron in the body is present in the form of hemoglobin as it is the main importance of Iron and the remaining Iron is stored in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow in the form of ferritin or hemosiderin so that our bodies can utilize it in the times of need.
Transferring is the protein responsible for Iron absorption from the small intestine. Hepcidin is the hormone in charge of regulating Iron absorption and distribution in the blood and Iron stores and its excretion in urine, feces, and sweat.
There are two types of dietary Iron heme and non-heme Iron:
- Heme Iron is the type found in animal sources of food and it has Iron in the ferrous form that is easily absorbed.
- Non-heme Iron is the type of Iron found in plant sources and the Iron here is in the ferric form that has to be reduced to the ferrous form and that is why adding lemons or any other source of vitamin c improves the absorption of Iron from these sources especially if you are vegetarian and depend only on plant sources of Iron.
There are certain chemicals in food that hinder the absorption of Iron like tannins in tea and coffee, Polyphenols in legumes, and Phytates in beans and grains, some medications like proton pump inhibitor omeprazole lower the acidity of the stomach so make sure to consume foods rich in Iron at least 2 hours before taking your meds.
Why do we Need Iron?
- Iron is necessary for the making of hemoglobin an important protein that plays a major part in RBC synthesis since it is the part that carries the oxygen on the red blood cells from the lung to all body tissues, the word heme in hemoglobin literally stands for Iron.
- Iron is essential for making myoglobin another protein that is mostly present in muscle cells, it has the same function as hemoglobin it Carries the oxygen from the blood to the muscle but it has a higher affinity to oxygen so it holds on to it for longer so that the muscles can utilize it.
- Iron is a must-have supplement during pregnancy since pregnant women in order to be able to form the placenta and feed the growing fetus their bodies increase their blood volume and viscosity so they need more hemoglobin and higher Iron requirements to meet their needs and avoid developing Iron deficiency anemia that increases the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
- Iron plays a role in the synthesis of some hormones and is vital for immunity and body energy.
- Iron is needed for growing infants as it helps their physical growth and neurological development.
How much Iron do I Need Daily?
The recommended daily intake for Iron differs between age groups and growth and development needs:
- Birth to 6-month babies need 0.27 mg of Iron
- 7_11-month-old babysitter needs 11 mg of Iron
- 1_3-year-old children need 7 mg of Iron
- 4_8-year-old children need 10 mg of Iron
- 9_13-year-old children need 8 mg of Iron
- 14_18-year-old teens need 15 mg of Iron
- Over 19-year-old females need 18 mg of Iron
- Over 19-year-old males need 8 mg of Iron
- Pregnant females need 27 mg of Iron
- Lactating females need 10 mg of Iron