The body needs various vitamins and minerals throughout life, and iron is an essential nutrient for growth and development as well as for keeping adults healthy.
What Is the Role of Iron?
Iron is needed for all the body’s cells, especially the red blood cells that transport oxygen from the lungs around the body. The muscles also need iron to help them store oxygen, and many enzymes contain iron which is used in functions such as helping with digestion.
What Happens When a Person Has Too Little Iron?
Many parts of the body are affected by a lack of iron. Iron deficiency anaemia is the commonest form of anaemia and occurs when there are fewer red blood cells than there should be. This means that the tissues and organs do not get all the oxygen they need, and certain symptoms occur. The onset can be sudden or gradual, and the most common symptoms include a pale complexion, lethargy and tiredness, shortness of breath and palpitations. Details of less common symptoms can be found on the NHS website.
Iron In the Diet
We usually obtain the iron we need from a healthy balanced diet, but there are occasions when an iron supplement is required. There are many good sources of iron in the diet, including red meat, liver and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli. Iron is also present in nuts, dried fruit, pulses such as beans and lentils and whole grains such as brown rice. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with iron and other minerals. The average man needs a daily amount of 8.7mg of iron, and a woman requires 14.8mg daily.
Why Do Women Need More Iron Than Men?
Women, from adolescence and throughout their childbearing years, lose blood during menstruation. Pregnancy also means that the body requires more iron, so women are at a higher risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia and may need supplementation to boost iron levels in the blood. If they are needed, iron supplements can be obtained from companies such as https://www.blueiron.co.uk/blueiron.html. Pregnant women should not eat liver, although it is a good source of iron, because it also contains vitamin A, and an excess of this could be harmful for the developing baby.
It is important not to take too high a dose of supplements, since this can also cause problems.