Comprehensive Overview of Iron and the Side Effects of Iron Deficiency

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What is Iron?

It’s one of the essential minerals which is required by the body for it to function. Iron should be consumed in adequate amounts in order for the body to carry out vital tasks. It’s worth noting that although the type of food that you eat greatly influences the amount of iron intake, it also determines how the iron will be absorbed. The main building block of hemoglobin is iron. In addition to that, iron is also a myoglobin component, a protein that stores oxygen in the muscles.

Does Body Needs Iron?

The body requires iron in order for it to properly function. Iron is vital for the production of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the tissues and cells. This essential mineral normally combines with the hemoglobin protein which facilitates the transportation of oxygen. In addition to that, it also helps to enhance the immune system as well as other functions. So what happens if there is an inadequate amount of iron in the body?

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is a condition where a person has inadequate amounts of iron in the body. Since this mineral is responsible for vital functions, lack of it may lead to symptoms such as tiredness and fatigue. Additionally, it may lead to reduced concentration, certain behavioral problems, and memory loss. Students and children suffering from iron deficiency post low performance because they have reduced attention span. Chronic iron deficiency may result in fingernails to be spoon-shaped. Furthermore, the tongue and the corners of the mouth may be sore.

Anemia is another condition that is caused by iron deficiency. It occurs as a result of low iron storage in the body. This leads to insufficient hemoglobin hence a person may end up experiencing lethargy and tiredness. Other common symptoms of anemia include irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness, dizziness and breath shortness.

Causes of Iron Deficiency

One of the main causes of deficiency of iron is insufficient iron intake. This means that the body’s daily needs aren’t be met. In addition to that, the small intestine may fail to adequately absorb iron. Blood loss, as well as an underlying medical condition, could also be contributing factors to this deficiency.

 Source of Iron
Sources of Iron

There is a wide range of foods which are rich in iron. Iron is present in food in two different forms i.e. heme or non-heme. A heme type of iron is normally found in animal-based foods which have hemoglobin. Such types of food include poultry, veal, pork, fish, and meat among others. This type of iron is usually regarded as the best and more than 45 percent is directly absorbed by the body. Generally, the best sources of heme iron are organ and red meats.

Non-heme iron is normally derived from plant-based sources such as fortified foods and vegetables. This type of iron is also found in supplements such as meal replacement drinks. Research reports indicate that over 80 percent of a person’s total intake of iron is derived from this type of iron while the remaining percentage is from heme. The best sources of the non-heme iron are:

• Beans e.g. soybeans, lentils etc.
• Leafy greens e.g. kale, spinach etc.
• Fortified cereals
• Oats, rice and wheat
• Dried fruits e.g. apricots, raisins etc.

Foods that can enhance and Hinder Iron Absorption

There are certain types of foods which can help to increase the absorption of iron. They include foods rich in vitamin C which help to increase the absorption of non-heme iron. Such foods include leafy veggies, citrus fruits strawberries, bell peppers among others. as mentioned above, poultry, fish and also meat are great.

While some foods increase the uptake of iron, others may prevent it. Foods which contain phytates such as legumes, soy, whole grains, nuts, and cereals contain phytic acid. This acid is known to decrease the absorption of iron. While calcium supports bone health, studies indicate that it can prevent up to 50 percent of the iron intake. Additionally, foods that are rich in polyphenols, for instance, some fruits, vegetables, wine, coffee, and tea may inhibit the amount of non-heme iron that’s absorbed by the body.

Iron in Meal Replacement Drinks

Meal replacements drinks are the best type of supplements because they are easily absorbed by the body. There are various meal replacement drinks which have been fortified with iron to enhance the iron content in the body. Currently, there are numerous types of smoothies which can help fight iron deficiency. For instance, there is an anemia smoothie that has been formulated to increase the intake of iron and to improve the blood health.


Iron is essential for different functions in the body. Although it should be consumed in adequate amounts, iron toxicity as a result of an overdose is very rare. This is because once this mineral has been ingested, the body has a balancing system which ensures that only adequate amounts are absorbed.

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