What is Iron and What Are its Benefits?

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Iron plays an important role in creating haemoglobin, which support the carrying of oxygen around the body. Find out more about what iron is and does here.

Iron is an essential mineral that’s needed for making a protein found in red blood cells, that helps transport oxygen around the body. Iron plays a key role in supporting the immune system too. So, what is iron? And what are the benefits of iron? In this article we will uncover all there is to know about this mineral and the benefits it brings to you.

What is Iron? Iron

Iron is needed in the body for healthy growth and development. While all human cells contain iron, it is mostly found in red blood cells, haemoglobin, to carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to the muscles.

Your body also needs iron to make some hormones, and for muscle development during growth. Iron helps to maintain energy levels, regulate body temperature, contributes to a healthy brain development and may even improve athletic performance.

Iron has a great deal of benefits, along with the ones already introduced, it is also plays a vital role in the process of converting beta carotene into vitamin A. If you don’t get enough iron, you can feel tired.

What are the benefits of Iron?

The benefits of iron supplementation are mainly restoring low iron levels. Treating iron deficiency alleviates the symptoms you could experience with low iron and anaemia. It also helps to avoid complications down the road of iron deficiencies turning into anaemia. There are many benefits to iron, and it helps support the body in many ways:

Treats Anaemia

Iron is helpful for treating anaemia related to iron deficiency. Its one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world. Symptoms of anaemia include fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, fast heart rate, and an overall feeling of sickness and weakness. Daily iron supplementation has been shown to reduce the prevalence if anaemia and low iron levels.

Tired man

Reduces Fatigue

Iron may help manage unexplained fatigue, even in someone who isn’t anaemic, but has low ferritin levels. This is especially common in women during their reproductive years. When iron levels are low, your cells don’t get the oxygen they need, which leaves you feeling tired.

Low iron levels can make you feel run-down and tired. Therefore, making sure you have enough iron in your diet, whether that’s through eating more iron rich foods or taking supplements to replace the iron loss in your bodies, is vital for health immune growth as well as making you feel less fatigued and more alert.

Improves Athletic Performance

Iron is needed to make myoglobin, the protein that provides oxygen to muscle. Many athletes may have adequate intake of iron from their diet to support performance, however, athletes involved in endurance training like marathon running or endurance cycling events lose more iron.

Improves Cognition

Research has shown that cognitive levels drop with iron deficiency. In fact, when iron levels in the blood drop, concentration and attentiveness are affected almost immediately. Getting iron levels restored to a normal range can boost concentration and improve cognitive performance.

Iron for Vegans and Vegetarians?

Many plant-based foods contain some iron, such as, beans vegetables and grains. You should eat foods containing vitamin C with meals, such as salad or juice, and avoid drinking tea during or after main meals.

In the UK some foods, including cereals, are fortified, make sure to read the label to help identify the best choices for you. Although iron can be taken as a supplement, vegans can find iron in dried beans and legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, as well as wholegrain cereals and breads.

How much iron do I need?Athlete on starting blocks

The amount of iron you need on a daily basis depends on your overall health and wellbeing. If you are not getting enough iron from non-meat sources in a vegan or vegetarian diet, you experience heavy periods, or have a stomach ulcer that may cause internal bleeding, you will need more iron. The suggested intake is as follows:

  • Women aged 19-50: 14.8mg a day (woman need more iron than men due to menstruation, pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Men 8.7mg a day
  • Women aged 50+ 8.7mg a day

The major benefit of taking iron supplements, or insuring you have enough iron in your diet is to help prevent iron deficiency anaemia. It may also be useful if you exercise regularly, we lose iron in our sweat, which could be a problem if you already have low iron levels. Iron also helps to maintain healthy skin, hair and nails too. If you think you may have an iron deficiency, always seek the help of a trusted health professional before taking any supplements.

Now that you’ve entered the wonderful world of iron, why not take a look at what folic acid is and does next?









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