Iron is an essential trace element for the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Therefore, increasing the intake of foods containing iron is vital for a healthy body.
Iron is one of the essential nutrients the body needs to carry out its daily activities. Its main functions include protein metabolism and the production of hemoglobin, enzymes and red blood cells. Iron is also essential for healthy skin, hair and nails.
Risks of iron deficiency
Anemia is the best known condition that produces a deficiency of this mineral and has symptoms that can include: fatigue, body weakness, headaches and increased sensitivity to low temperatures.
Severe, long-term or chronic iron deficiency can cause other more serious diseases such as hypotension (low blood pressure), kidney failure, leukemia, muscle spasms, cellular malignancy, etc.
In what foods is iron found?
This metal (whose chemical symbol is Fe) is present in very common products. Those that provide the highest content of this mineral are: red meat, liver, mussels, oysters and tuna.
These other organic foods also contain iron, but need the presence of vitamin C to absorb it: whole grains, legumes, green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, nuts and tofu.
Beware of iron-inhibiting foods
- Egg. The phosvitine it contains prevents the body from absorbing iron of vegetable origin.
- Milk. The calcium contained in dairy products inhibits the absorption of iron of animal and vegetable origin when its consumption exceeds 300 mg per day.
- Tea. The oxalate contained in tea affects the absorption of iron of vegetable origin. It is not recommended to be taken with iron-rich meals.
- Cocoa and coffee. The phenolic compounds contained in cocoa and coffee inhibit the absorption of iron of vegetable origin.
- Nut. The phytates in nuts and other seeds act as powerful inhibitors and can reduce iron absorption by 50-65%.
Benefits of iron for the body
Pale skin and dark circles under the eyes are the most common signs of anemia caused by iron deficiency, which manifests as a decrease in red blood cells and consequently causes a decrease in tissue oxygenation, which leads the skin loses its natural color. A diet rich in iron leads to glowing and healthy skin.
This mineral plays an important role in accelerating the healing process. Since red blood cells and platelets, which are involved in wound dressing and are the basis for healing, need large amounts of iron to form and survive.
A study from the European Journal of Dermatology showed that hair loss, especially in women, is closely linked to a lack of iron. Since low reserves of this mineral increase the drop rate. Additionally, iron improves hair texture and reduces dullness, increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the hair roots.
Being one of the people responsible for transporting and delivering oxygen to the tissues, muscles and the brain benefit from the correct iron level, as it increases physical performance and mental alertness. Low iron levels lead to inattentiveness, irritability and fatigue.
Helps muscle function
Iron is also extremely important for muscle health, as it is involved in the production of myoglobin, a protein that stores oxygen provided by hemoglobin, in muscle cells.
Contributes to brain development
Children should eat a balanced diet that never lacks iron-containing foods, because iron ensures healthy brain development. According to a study by the Pediatric Neurology Seminars, the cognitive, motor, socio-emotional and neurophysiological development of infants with iron deficiency anemia is significantly lower than that of healthy children.
Doctors recommend that pregnant women increase their intake of iron and vitamin C (which aids in the absorption and fixation of the former) from organic and natural food sources, as this helps reduce the risk of low weight at birth and prevents maternal anemia.
Strengthens the immune system
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, iron is very useful for a number of immune functions, such as the differentiation and proliferation of T cells and the production of reactive species that fight pathogens.
Relief of premenstrual symptoms
According to research conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, women who eat a diet rich in iron experience marked relief from premenstrual symptoms such as pain, dizziness, mood swings, high blood pressure, and more.
Side Effects of Iron Supplements
It is always preferable to naturally incorporate iron through food, but in some cases it is necessary to supplement it with vitamins.
Taking iron supplements can cause side effects such as nausea and constipation. Therefore, it is important to take only the dose recommended by the doctor.
Iron supplements are indicated for the prevention and treatment of iron deficiency anemia. They are also used in certain situations where the body requires higher concentrations of this mineral, such as childhood and pregnancy.
Iron is better assimilated on an empty stomach, so it is advisable to take it 1 hour before eating. For better absorption, take iron with a glass of orange or tomato juice, as they contain vitamin C and help its assimilation.