Without iron, your body wouldn’t be able to perform a whole variety of functions to optimal levels. But, what are these functions, exactly? Within this guide, you will learn all about the basics of iron, including the roles it plays in your body. Let’s begin!
What Is Iron?
Iron is a crucial mineral that your body needs to support its normal function. Our blood contains iron within its red blood cells, meaning if you lose blood, you’ll lose iron. This shouldn’t be a daunting factor for too many people, however, as there are plenty of foods out there that are rich in iron. This makes accessing the mineral super easy.
What Does Iron Do For The Body?
Now for the reason you came here for – understanding what iron does in the body. Firstly, iron contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, making it incredibly important for sufficient oxygen transport throughout the body.
Other important roles of iron include:
- Helping to fight against tiredness.
- It is needed for the metabolism of drugs.
- It affects the activity of the heart, liver and muscles (EFSA, 2010).
If assisting with the transport of oxygen wasn’t enough, it’s clear to see that iron is super important for your body. Without it, all of the above mentioned processes wouldn’t be able to take place in a normal manner.
Managing Your Iron Intake
There are two ways to manage your iron intake – through a balanced diet and through iron tablets. Let’s take a closer look into both of the options, in order to assess what route you should follow.
Maintaining a varied and balanced diet is one of the easiest ways to meet optimal iron levels. But, while iron can be found in plant based foods, the version that your body easily absorbs is found in animal products. This form of iron goes by the name of haem iron (in contrast to non-haem iron). The most common food sources of iron include:
- Beans (non-haem)
- Nuts (non-haem)
- Red meat (haem)
- Liver (haem)
If blood tests confirm that your iron levels are low, you might be advised to take daily iron supplements. When sold through a reputable brand, these supplements help to safeguard your intake without influencing too high levels.
There are several reasons as to why your iron levels might be low. This includes:
- Following a plant based diet
- Experiencing heavy periods
- Lack of a varied diet
Whatever your reason, it’s best to run some tests in order to determine how your iron levels are looking.
How Much Iron Do I Need?
The amount of iron needed varies between gender and age groups. As a general rule of thumb, confirmed by the NHS, men over 18 should absorb 8.7mg every day. The same applies to women over 50. Women aged 19 to 50, however, should absorb 14.8mg a day. This is mainly due to menstruation and the amount of iron that gets lost during a heavy period.