Iron is an important micro-mineral essential to the human body. It forms an important constituent of Hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is present in your Red Blood Cells which is responsible for transport of oxygen from the lungs to the various tissues in the body. Here, hemoglobin releases the oxygen so that it is available for aerobic respiration, thus providing energy for various life processes to take place.
Iron is absorbed from food into the body in stomach and duodenum. There are many factors which affect the absorption of iron in to the body. Iron food sources when had along with Vitamin C rich foods, cause increase in its absorption as Vitamin C facilitates absorption of Iron. In general, less of iron is absorbed from vegetarian sources due to presence of phosphates and fiber which impairs its absorption and also makes it less available for absorption in stomach.
Functions of Iron:
The total iron content in the body is 3-5 g.
70% of the total iron is present in blood. It is present in the Red Blood Cells (RBCs) bound to hemoglobin, to be precise. As discussed earlier, Hemoglobin is responsible for transport of oxygen we breathe, from lungs to various tissues. Iron is required in hemoglobin synthesis as it makes a part of the Hemoglobin structure.
5% iron is present in muscles as a component of protein called Myoglobin. Myoglobin acts as an oxygen storage for muscles and provides oxygen to the working muscles.
Remaining 25% is present in storage form, ferritin. It is found in cells in the body and circulates in the blood.
An average adult male has about 1 g of stored iron, enough for about three years, whereas women have only about 300 mg on average which is enough for about six months.
Iron in the cells is essential for assisting various enzymes in bringing about biochemical reactions.
It also has a role in immunocompetence and immunity of the body.
The daily requirement of iron via diet for an adult male is 10 mg/day. While for an adult female it is about 18 mg/day. It is higher in women to account for loss via blood during menstruation.
For pregnant and lactating women it is around 40 mg/day. This is to support the growing fetus or child and also to deal with the bodily changes before and after the pregnancy. Pregnant women are started on Iron tablets along with Folic acid and Vitamin B12 tablets during the onset of pregnancy.
Iron is called as a one way substance as it remains in the body for a long time and its excretion rarely occurs.
Sources of Iron:
Vegetarian sources :
Soybeans and Lentils are a rich source of Iron.
Special Mention : Dark Chocolate contains approximately 11.9 mg Iron per 100g serving.
Non Veg Sources:
1. Chicken Breast
2. Red Meat
5. Mackerel or Indian Salmon
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