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Mineral Directory - Iron

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Spinach - A useful source of iron, especially for vegetarians, spinach also contains beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A), vitamins C, E, and folate and calcium, and potassium. © Provided by DKBooks Spinach - A useful source of iron, especially for vegetarians, spinach also contains beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A), vitamins C, E, and folate and calcium, and potassium.

Spinach - A useful source of iron, especially for vegetarians, spinach also contains beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A), vitamins C, E, and folate and calcium, and potassium.

Iron

Daily requirement
men: 8mg per day
women: 18mg per day

This is an essential mineral in all cells of the body even though it is needed only in minute quantities. Iron (Fe) is a component of hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells), and it plays a key role in transporting oxygen around the body. It is also part of myoglobin (a protein found in muscle cells) and is involved in the release of energy from glucose and fatty acids in the intestine.

Iron absorption requires gastric acid, which is secreted by the lining of the stomach, to convert it into a form that is best absorbed. Dietary iron from animal products—known as heme iron—is more easily absorbed by the body than the iron found in plants. However, the presence of vitamin C in the body is known to increase the absorption of iron from foods of plant origin.

A greater amount of iron is absorbed from food if the need is greater, such as during pregnancy, in adolescent girls, in people with anemia, and in those who have suffered from bleeding, such as heavy menstruation or following childbirth, surgery, or trauma.


Iron deficiency

This deficiency is most frequently caused by a poor intake of iron. It is one of the most widespread, and also most easily remedied, nutritional problems in the world. Pregnant women and breast-feeding and new mothers, infants and children, menstruating females, especially adolescents, and older adults are at greatest risk because of changes in their metabolic rate. Babies who are not breast-fed and not given iron-fortified formula or cereal may develop iron deficiency.

Vegetarians are also at risk of this deficiency since the amount of iron that the body can absorb from plants is lower than that from meats.

Iron deficiency is characterized by anemia. Signs and symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia are common and include weakness, pale skin, fatigue and faintness, cold or numbness in the fingers and toes due to poor blood circulation, shortness of breath, greater susceptibility to infections, soft or brittle nails, poor work performance, and behavioral changes.

Young children with iron deficiency can become very tired and have low concentration. They may develop learning difficulties and behavioral problems that may be permanent.


Good sources

Iron

This is found naturally in all these foods, which contain at least 2mg of the mineral per 31/2oz (100g):

Spinach

Dried fruit, especially prunes

Organ meat (kidney and liver)

Red meat

Egg yolks

Poultry

Sardines

Tuna

Shrimp

Legumes such as soy, lima, and kidney beans, and chickpeas

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