Iron is responsible for many processes in the body. An adult has about 3-4 g of iron. Every day, a person needs a minimum amount of iron, no more than 0.018 g. But in order to get it, you will have to consume much more food with the content of this element, since only 10% is absorbed, that is, the recommended dose must be multiplied by 10.
The role of iron in the human body
The main function of iron in the human body is hematopoiesis. It is this element that plays a role in the transport of hemoglobin, that is, it delivers oxygen from the lungs to all tissues.
In addition, iron is involved in the synthesis of ATP. The substance helps the body to resist diseases and depression. It helps to eliminate the symptoms of fatigue and is responsible for the normal tone of the skin.
Iron participates in the process of energy production, that is, in the transfer of electrons, which are responsible for the production of energy. If there is enough iron in the body, then there will be no problems with immunity.
The body’s daily need for iron
Adults and adolescents, regardless of gender, require 14 to 18 mg. In childhood, 11 mg is required, for older children from 7 to 10 mg. After 50 years, the need for iron decreases to 8 mg. Babies who have not reached 4-6 months do not need additional introduction of foods rich in iron, since breast milk fully satisfies all the baby’s needs for this element.
Most iron is required during pregnancy. At this stage, the daily dose is 27 mg.
An interesting fact is that in smokers, the amount of iron in the body is always normal. Quite simply, smoke enhances the production of hemoglobin. However, there is another side – hemoglobin cells that have fallen under the influence of smoke are no longer able to transport oxygen. But a blood test will not confirm this, since it is impossible to distinguish between “good” and “bad” cells.
What affects the absorption of iron
The absorption of iron directly depends on its form. Heme iron, which is best absorbed, is found in protein foods.
Vitamin C affects the absorption of the microelement, it increases its bioavailability.
How to determine the lack of iron in the body
At the first stage of micronutrient deficiency, a person does not observe any symptoms. Over time, the shortage still affects and the following symptoms appear:
- constant lethargy;
- cold limbs;
- pain in the heart;
- tingling in the legs, especially when sitting;
- noise in ears;
- flies before the eyes.
Dry hair begins to bother, they become split. Nails break and flake. A clear sign is the appearance of cracks in the corners of the lips that hurt. A swollen tongue can also indicate a lack of iron. In addition to the swelling, the tongue becomes too sensitive, and you may even have trouble swallowing and chewing food.
At a later date, shortness of breath appears, heart rate increases, especially during active physical exertion.
Blue sclera is a striking symptom of iron deficiency. The outer protein membrane of the eyeballs acquires a blue tint, which in the future, if the situation is not corrected, can lead to corneal dystrophy.
In children, appetite and immunity may decrease. Parents notice a decrease in academic performance in their offspring, unique taste preferences appear, for example, a child begins to eat chalk or toothpaste.
Some people develop a passion for ice, a condition called pagophagia . A number of scientists are sure that chewing ice relieves fatigue and lethargy, and therefore there is a passion for it.
According to WHO statistics, latent anemia occurs in 3.6 billion people. Most often, this problem is faced by pregnant women and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.
What Causes Lead to Iron Decrease
The lack of iron in the body can be associated with many reasons. Most often, this occurs against the background of a lack of vitamins in food, especially groups B, C and A. Many people incorrectly combine food supplements or food, while consuming iron with substances that are inhibitors, we are talking about calcium, magnesium, chromium and zinc.
A serious lack of iron is felt by a person who has refused food of animal origin. It is from meat and offal that 15% to 35% of iron is absorbed. No more than 5% can be obtained from plant foods, only 20% from greens.
In some cases, iron deficiency occurs due to the presence of gastrointestinal diseases, helminthic invasions.
But the greatest danger is the profuse blood loss, it is against the background of such a problem that a serious iron deficiency arises. This condition can occur after a serious injury or heavy periods. Increased loads also often cause a lack of this substance.
Elderly people often face iron deficiency due to inadequate nutrition or not being able to eat much. However, scientists managed to establish that with proper nutrition, good physical shape, in old age, there is no micronutrient deficiency.
Iron for Vegetarians
Indeed, vegetarians and vegans constantly face the question of where to get iron, because in plant foods, it is present in limited quantities.
Therefore, vegetarians are advised to diversify their diet as much as possible. These should be legumes, whole grains , nuts.
How to increase the body’s ability to absorb iron
To increase the digestibility of the microelement, it is recommended to consume more foods with a high content of vitamin C. It is the combination of iron and this vitamin that increases the bioavailability of the first substance. Simply put, meat and fish are best consumed with herbs or fruit juices.
Bioavailability can be increased by germinating legumes. Supplements can be taken, but should not be done without a doctor’s prescription. Poisoning can occur when a dose of 200 mg is exceeded. This amount leads to an emergency, at first the symptoms subside, then after 24-48 hours it intensifies again. Such an overdose is extremely dangerous for children, as it can be fatal.
In addition to vitamin C, the absorption of the microelement increases due to the combination with folic acid and B vitamins.
An interesting fact is that in order to preserve the maximum amount of iron in food, it is better to cook the dish in a cast iron pot.
In order not to worsen the condition, it is better not to combine iron and calcium. They make it difficult to assimilate each other. The easiest way to stop eating dairy products is with food that contains a lot of iron. For example, you shouldn’t eat buckwheat porridge with milk. When consuming foods with a lot of iron, avoid consuming them at the same time with coffee or tea. They contain tannin, which prevents the iron from being absorbed.
Foods high in iron
The leaders on this list are oysters and shellfish. If you eat 6 oysters per day, you can get as much as 6 mg of iron. And 100 g of shellfish contains 3 mg of a trace element. But, there are 2 main problems. For our country, these dishes are still delicacies. And besides, they are quite often the cause of allergies.
Pork liver is the leader in the list of high iron protein foods. 100 g of a dish made from this offal contains 20.2 mg of a trace element. Chicken contains 17.5 mg. However, the liver has a serious deficiency, it contains too much cholesterol, so it is often not recommended to eat it.
Protein foods high in iron:
- beef liver 9 mg;
- beef tongue 4.1 mg;
- beef 3.6 mg;
- rabbit 3.3 mg;
- lamb and horse meat 3.1 mg;
- pork 1.8 mg;
- mackerel 1.7 mg;
- tuna 1.5 mg;
- herring 1 mg.
To improve the absorption of iron, it is recommended to lean on eggs, chicken liver. In addition to iron, they contain a lot of folic acid, which helps the first microelement to be absorbed.
On this list, white beans can be put in 1st place. 100 g of legumes contain 100 mg of iron, while the calorie content is low.
The second position is occupied by lentils, which contain 70 mg of a trace element. Cashews have 7 mg of iron, but too many calories, as much as 600 units per 100 g.
Buckwheat, but only boiled, contains 67 mg of a trace element.
Chickpeas also contain a lot of iron – 60 mg, but it is better to give preference to a germinated culture. Dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds contain 10 mg less than chickpeas, but the calorie content is also too high.
It is also recommended to lean on spinach, which has 27 mg and the minimum amount of calories. Moreover, if you boil spinach, then the amount of iron increases by 55%.
Of all dried fruits, the most iron in raisins – 25 mg.
Other foods high in iron include:
- coconut pulp 19.4 mg;
- tomatoes 16.4 mg;
- pumpkin 14 mg;
- baked potatoes 10 mg;
- prunes 8.1 mg;
- olives 7.5 mg;
- watermelon 6.9 mg;
- peach 3.8 mg;
- dates 2.2 mg.
Be sure to use greens, it is she who contains the most iron of all plant foods.
Naturally, iron deficiency can be replenished with the help of food supplements, however, their intake is not recommended without first consulting a doctor, despite the fact that they are not drugs. An excess of this trace element will not lead to anything good. It is best to get the trace element from food. Drink less coffee, more orange juice.
At the first onset of symptoms, an urgent blood test should be taken and a doctor should be consulted. This will help prevent liver problems and prevent the development of osteoporosis.