Trace Elements: Iron

Iron is a trace element involved in hematopoiesis, respiration, redox reactions, and immunobiological processes. The extremely important role of iron in the human body is determined by the fact that iron is a component of blood and has more than a hundred enzymes.

Iron is a component of many proteins in the body that perform a variety of functions, but their main function is to transport and store oxygen.

First of all, iron is a part of hemoglobin, which delivers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. When there is a lack of iron in the body, the amount of hemoglobin decreases, which leads to oxygen starvation of cells and tissues.

Everyone has experienced this condition when climbing a mountain, after jogging, or when staying indoors.

Iron is also a part of myoglobin. Myoglobin is an oxygen-binding protein in the body’s muscles. It creates an oxygen reserve in the muscles, which is used in the initial stages of active physical work. It is thanks to it that you can hold your breath for several minutes. In some mammals, the concentration of myoglobin is so high that they can hold their breath for several hours (whales).
Iron is part of the structure of cytochromes, which are involved in the processes of energy storage in the body’s cells.

An adult human body contains approximately 4 g of iron.

Hemoglobin accounts for more than half of this mass, about 2.5 grams. Some iron is stored in the spleen, liver, and bone marrow.

The body’s daily requirement for iron ranges from 10 to 30 milligrams.

Iron deficiency in the body

The entire body suffers from iron deficiency: serious disorders occur in the cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, and nervous systems.

Signs of iron deficiency include shortness of breath, muscle weakness, fatigue, brittle nails and hair, dry skin, and mucous membranes. With a catastrophic lack of iron, a taste distortion syndrome appears: people start eating soil, sand, paper, and raw meat. Iron deficiency leads to such consequences as a decrease in the body’s protective functions and anemia.

Iron deficiency occurs with malnutrition, heavy physical exertion, after blood loss, during menstruation in women, with vegetarian diets, due to digestive disorders (insufficient iron absorption).

The recorded symptoms of excess iron are similar to the signs of hepatitis: the skin turns jaundiced, the sclerae, the roof of the mouth and tongue become the same, itching appears and the liver becomes enlarged. The heart rhythm is disturbed, people become pale and lose weight, and skin pigmentation appears.

Foods that contain iron

If we estimate the content in 100 grams of a product, then a lot of iron – more than 3 milligrams – is contained in beef and pork liver, beef tongue, rabbit meat, and turkey meat, as well as in oatmeal and buckwheat cereals, beans. In fruit and berry crops – in peaches and blueberries.

Iron content in food products:

  1. Beef – 3.1 mg/100 g.
  2. Soybeans – 5.2 mg/100 g.
  3. Lentils – 3.3 mg/100 g
  4. Spinach – 3.0 mg/100 g.
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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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