Iron – Essential Trace Element

Iron is one of the most significant trace elements in the human body in terms of quantity and therefore plays a very important role in our health. Our body cannot produce iron on its own, which is why it is vital for us. Nothing runs smoothly for us without iron: After all, the trace element plays a key role in the transport of oxygen in the blood or the formation of red blood cells. An iron deficiency can be detrimental to health. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about iron.

What exactly is iron?

In short: an important trace element that is required above all for the vital oxygen transport in the body. Yes, even if trace elements only make up a comparatively small proportion of our weight, they are still very important for many bodily functions. Iron is important for cell formation and respiration. When we take in oxygen through the lungs, the trace element ensures that it is also bound to the red blood pigment hemoglobin. In addition, iron distributes oxygen for energy generation throughout the body and in the cells. Iron deficiency can cause metabolic disorders and lead to unpleasant deficiency symptoms.

Iron and its properties

Why is a good supply of iron so important? Well, the trace element ensures, among other things, the necessary vitality in everyday life and ideal brain function. Iron also supports hormone production, the production of neuronal messenger substances (also: neurotransmitters), collagen formation, and enzymatically controlled detoxification processes, which play a role in scavenging free radicals, for example. The European Commission for Food Safety attributes the following functions to the trace element iron:

  • Formation of red blood cells and hemoglobin
  • oxygen transport
  • cell division
  • mental functions
  • Contribution to the energy-yielding metabolism
  • immune function
  • fatigue reduction
  • Conversion of foreign substances (e.g. antibiotics)
  • heart activity
  • Liver and muscle activity

Iron deficiency: what are the possible causes

Since iron is absorbed through digestion, poor diet or intestinal problems often lead to iron deficiency. Two-thirds of all iron is in the blood. This means that if you lose a lot of blood, you also lose iron. Likewise, increased blood formation also leads to an increased need for iron.

Which foods contain iron?

To be adequately supplied with iron, it is advisable to integrate iron-rich foods into the weekly menu. Animal products such as beef, liver, or mussels are particularly suitable. The advantage over plant-based iron suppliers: The iron in animal foods consists of up to 60 percent heme iron, of which around 30 percent can be utilized in the body. The body absorbs only about 5 percent of plant iron. Nevertheless, the intake can be increased by taking vitamin C at the same time. Plant-based products containing iron are therefore also suitable. For example whole grain products, legumes, nuts, or spinach.

What is the daily iron requirement?

For an adequate supply of iron, women should consume 15 milligrams and men 10 milligrams of iron. Why do women need more iron than men? Women lose more blood – and therefore iron – through monthly menstruation than men. A daily dose of 30 milligrams is recommended for pregnant women. In this way, the unborn child can also be supplied with sufficient iron. After giving birth, women need around 20 milligrams of iron per day to replenish their stores.

Are vegetarians more likely to have an iron deficiency?

A persistent myth: Vegetarians and vegans must automatically expect an iron deficiency. Is that true? no, While meat is one of the best sources of iron, people who want to avoid it can get iron from other foods. About legumes, whole grain products, vegetables, or special spices. For this reason, it can be said that vegetarians and vegans are no more likely to struggle with the iron deficiency than other people.

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Written by Dave Parker

I am a food photographer and recipe writer with more than 5 years of experience. As a home cook, I have published three cookbooks and had many collaborations with international and domestic brands. Thanks to my experience in cooking, writing and photographing unique recipes for my blog you will get great recipes for lifestyle magazines, blogs, and cookbooks. I have extensive knowledge of cooking savory and sweet recipes that will tickle your taste buds and will please even the pickiest crowd.

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