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Iron- The merchant of the cell

By ADMIN, 04/18/2015 - 19:43
by - Swathi Muralidhar (Guest Blogger at SankalpTaru Foundation)



We all grew up watching the “Popeye- the sailor man” who used to pop in a can of spinach and gain super powers to fight off Bluto. Little did we know that the spinach is indeed a powerhouse of nutrients and helps our body in various aspects of metabolism!

Welcome to all the readers, to an eye-opening article on Iron, its bio-significance and supplementation to the body!

Mammalian body requires enough amounts of iron to surfeit metabolic needs and actualize specialized functions. With condonable exceptions, almost every cell in our human body relies on iron in order to produce energy and transfer it. Iron is one of the most fundamental cofactor in human biochemical system. Right from the carrying of oxygen to each cell in form of haemoglobin to DNA (genetic material) synthesis, Iron plays a crucial role in our body.

Why does my body need Iron?

Function of Iron in our body:

1. Oxygen transport and storage in body (through haemoglobin)
2. Regulates production of ATP’s- energy currency of a cell.
3. Plays vital role in production of certain hormones
4. Plays vital role in production of bile juices
5. Helps in detoxification of substances in liver
6. Information processing in brain is regulated by iron in form of neurotransmitters.

How much Iron do I need?

Requirement of iron in body:

A table below provides us with an updation on the body’s requirements of iron.


(Total Absolute Requirements= Requirement for growth + basal losses + menstrual losses (females only)

a Based in part on a 1988 report from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) (8) and in part on new calculations of the distribution of iron requirements in menstruating women
b Non-menstruating.
c Effect of the normal variation in haemoglobin concentration not included in this figure.
In the first year of life, the full-term infant almost doubles its total iron stores and triples its body weight. The change in body iron during this period occurs mainly during the first 6-12 months of life. Between 1 and 6 years of age, the body iron content is again doubled. The requirements for absorbed iron in infants and children are very high in relation to their energy requirements. For example, in infants 6-12 months of age, about 1.5 mg of iron need to be absorbed per 4.184 MJ and about half of this amount is required up to age 4 years.)

What do I eat to obtain iron?

For the love of non-vegetarians:

1. Organ meats like liver and giblets are one of the best sources of iron
2. Beef liver is very high in iron content with 5mg iron/slice.
3. Pork liver is even better as it contains lesser amounts of fat and provides for Vit C along with iron.
4. A half cup of egg yolk provides for 3mg of iron.
5. Red meat
6. Clams, mussels, oysters, and squid are energising source of iron

For the love of vegetarians:

1. Chickpeas (chenna) provide for 5 mg of iron per cup.

2. Raisins provides 1.6 mg of iron for every half cup of it

3. Lentils not only provide iron but loads of protein along with it too!

4. Dried peaches gives 1.6 mg of iron for every 1/4th cup of it

5. Pumpkin seeds can be roasted for no more than 10-15 mins to obtain 1 mg of iron for every handful of it!

6. Soybeans are another super food that packs protein, unsaturated fat, fibres and iron. Just a cup of it (boiled) provides our body with 8.8 mg of iron.

7. Arugula has countless health benefits with a tiny calorie count. Vegetarians should consume plenty arugula, particularly for its rich iron content.

8. With striking amounts of calcium, vitamin A and several cancer-fighting elements, what’s not to love about collard greens? Vegetarians have another reason to love these dark green veggies, because they’re also high in both iron and vitamin C. To get the most out of these essential nutrients, use raw collard greens in a salad that’s filled with other iron-rich vegetables.

9. With dried thyme at our hands which offers a unique lemon-pepper flavour to our food, also offers plenty of essential iron. In fact, dried thyme is one of the most iron-rich herbs you can find. And with so few calories, it makes a healthy, savoury addition to our healthy meals!

10. Prune juice is not only delicious, but it’s also a potent source of iron. Its high vitamin C content makes it easier for your body to absorb the iron, so having a glass of it with our meals always helps!

11. Apricots are an amazing source of iron. They can be consumed raw, canned, cooked, and dried (or even in your salads). But dried apricots provide your body with the most benefits and the largest amount of iron.

12. Potatoes are a must in Indian cookery and they’re also one of the best iron-rich food options for vegetarians. Since potatoes are also packed with vitamin C, it’s easier for your body to absorb the iron it needs.

13. Besides their ‘yummy’ taste, one of the best things about sun dried tomatoes is their high iron content. One cup contains nearly 30 percent of your recommended daily iron intake.

14. Lima beans are easy to cultivate and provide our body with a whopping 25% of our daily requirement of iron.

15. Though many vegetables contain lots of iron, many also are packed with iron inhibitor, which means your body is unable to absorb much of the iron. Fortunately, veggies like broccoli are also filled with vitamin C which helps in iron absorption and digestion.

16. If you are weight conscious and can’t afford having any fat in your food, but crave for iron, Kale is the best veggie one can opt for!

17. It’s not only easy to incorporate Peas into our diet but also provides 1.2 mg of iron for every half cup serving.

18. Eating fresh strawberries is a great way to head up our iron ingestion. Not only are strawberries a viable source of iron (a pint constitutes roughly 9% of the daily recommended value), but the high vitamin C content helps your body absorb more of the iron it needs.

19. Cooked spinach has a long list of vitamins and minerals to boast off and a feather to the cap is its iron content which provides for 6.4 mg for every cup served!

20. Brussels Sprout provides 1mg of iron for every ½ cup

What happens when there is not enough iron?

Worldwide, the highest prevalence of iron deficiency is found in infants, children, adolescents, and women of childbearing age, especially pregnant women. The weaning period in infants is critical because of the very high iron requirements in relation to energy requirements.

Thanks to better information and access to fortified cereals for infants and children, the iron situation has markedly improved in these groups in most industrialized countries where the highest prevalence of iron deficiency today are observed in menstruating and pregnant women and adolescents of both sexes.

In developing countries, however, the iron situation is very critical in many groups, especially in the weaning period.

Iron Deficiency (hypoferremia) leads to Anaemia which manifests itself in the following ways:
1. fatigue
2. dizziness
3. pallor
4. hair loss
5. twitches
6. irritability
7. weakness
8. pica
9. brittle or grooved nails
10. Plummer-Vinson syndrome: painful atrophy of the mucous membrane covering the tongue, the pharynx and the oesophagus
11. impaired immune function
12. pagophagia
13. restless legs syndrome

Treatments for the same are available but eating foods rich in iron on a daily basis is always the best option!

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