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General Nutrition and Diet Facts



Iron Benefits



Iron is an important component of haemoglobin and myoglobin. Haemoglobin is the iron-containing protein in your red blood cells, and it transports oxygen in the blood. Iron rich foods can fortify your Blood, in a properly balanced diet, which can become weakened by a lack of foods rich in iron.

Why need Iron

Iron has been considered as an essential mineral for our bodies for over a century. Iron, a mineral, functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the body, both as a part of hemoglobin in the blood and of myoglobin in the muscles. It also aids in immune function, cognitive development, temperature regulation, energy metabolism, and work performance. About 90% of the iron in our body is conserved and reused every day; the rest is excreted. Men are able to naturally store more iron than women. In order to maintain iron balance in the body for both men and women, dietary iron must supply enough iron to meet the 10% gap that our body has excreted or else deficiency will result.

Where do we get Iron

Dietary sources of iron are found in two forms: heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme sources are provided by animal tissues (meats) and are readily absorbed. Approximately 40% of iron found in meat is heme, with the best sources being liver, seafood, fish, lean meat, and poultry.

Nonheme iron is provided from plant sources and elemental components of animal tissues. It is less efficiently absorbed, and its absorption amount depends upon the bodyís needs (if there are low stores, more iron will be absorbed and vice versa). Nonheme sources that are high in iron include cooked spinach, beans, eggs, nuts, fortified breads, cereals, and flours.

The foods that supply the greatest amount of iron also include fortified cereals, bread, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and pasta; beef; dried beans and lentils; and poultry. Foods that contain small amounts of iron (such as legumes and dried fruits), but are not considered good sources, can contribute significant amounts of iron to an individualís diet if these foods are eaten often or in large amounts.

Good Food Source

A good food source of iron contains a substantial amount of iron in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10% in a selected serving size. It is the amount of the mineral used as a standard in nutrition labeling of foods, which is 18 milligrams per day for iron. The current iron content for postmenopausal women (ages 50+) and all men is 8 milligrams per day. For premenopausal women (ages 19 to 50) is 18 milligrams per day. For children (ages 4 to 8) is 10 milligrams per day.

Food Supply for iron consumption levels increased from 13.7 milligrams per day to 23.7 milligrams per day. This increase is largely due to the fortification and increase in consumption of cereals, flours, breads, and enriched grains. Grains were the number one food source supply of iron diets; meats, poultry, and seafood ranked second.

Fortified Foods

Pasta, white rice, and most breads made from refined flours are enriched with iron, because iron is one of the nutrients lost in processing. Other nutrients added to refined flours and pasta include thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. Enriched products or products made from enriched flour are labeled as such. Minimum and maximum enrichment levels are specified for thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.

Enough Iron

The intakes for men generally exceed, whereas most women consume lower than the normal required level. The ability of the body to absorb and utilize iron from different foods varies. The iron in meat, poultry, and fish is absorbed and utilized more readily than iron in other foods. The presence of these animal products in a meal increases the availability of iron from other foods. The body increases or decreases iron absorption according to need. The body absorbs iron more efficiently when iron stores are low and during growth spurts or pregnancy. The presence of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in a meal also increases iron absorption. Tea, coffee, or red wine; or an excess of zinc, manganese, or calcium can decrease iron absorption.

The most common indication of an iron deficiency is iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which the size and number of red blood cells are reduced. This condition may result from inadequate intake of iron or from blood loss. Anemia results in decreased oxygen in the blood, and can cause tiredness, headaches, irritability, and or depression. Anemia can also be caused by heavy blood loss through heavy menses, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and colon cancer.

Toxicity can occur if too much iron is absorbed. The major cause of this is most often hemochromatosis, a hereditary condition. This is a rare condition and is caused by a distinct gene that favors excessive iron absorption if it is readily available in the diet. Saturation of iron in the tissues can lead to tissue damage, specifically damage to the liver and heart.

How can we get enough iron?

Eating a variety of foods that contain iron is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements. Many doctors recommend feeding a fortified milk formula or breakfast cereal, or giving an iron supplement to infants and toddlers, because it is especially difficult to meet their iron needs. Doctors usually prescribe iron supplements for pregnant or lactating women. For vegetarians or vegans, it is important to consume sufficient amounts of moderately-rich iron foods, such as beans, legumes, and fortified breads, cereals, and flours. Soy products are typically good sources of iron as well.

To prepare Iron Foods

Iron skillets used for cooking can add to the total iron intake of the food being cooked in them, especially when acidic foods are cooked (such as tomato sauce). However, iron can be lost using other cooking methods even under the best conditions.

To retain iron:
∑ Cook foods in a minimal amount of water.
∑ Cook for the shortest possible time.

What is a serving?

The amount of nutrient in a serving depends on the weight of the serving. For example, a cup of cooked spinach contains more iron than a cup serving of spinach served raw, because the cooked spinach weighs more. Therefore, the cooked spinach appears on the list, while the raw form does not. Raw spinach provides the nutrientóbut just not enough in a one-cup serving to be considered a good source.

Food Selected Serving Size Iron Content
Breads, cereals, and other grain products
Bagel, plain 1 medium 1.8-4.3 mg
Farina, regular or quick, cooked 2/3 cup 4.5-7.0 mg
Muffin, bran 1 medium 1.8-4.3 mg
Egg noodles, cooked 1 cup 1.8-4.3 mg
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared 2/3 cup 4.5-7.0 mg
Pita bread, plain or whole-wheat 1 small 1.8-4.3 mg
Pretzel, soft 1 1.8-4.3 mg
Ready-to-eat cereals, fortified 1 ounce 4.5-7.0 mg
Rice, white, regular or converted, cooked 2/3 cup 1.8-4.3mg
Apricots, dried, uncooked, unsweetened 1/2 cup 1.8-4.3 mg
Beans, lima, cooked 1/2 cup 1.8-4.3 mg
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup 4.5-7.0 mg
Meat, poultry, fish, and alternates
Ground beef, extra lean, lean or regular; baked, broiled 1 patty 1.8-4.3 mg
Pot roast, braised, lean only 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Roast, rib, roasted, lean only 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Short ribs, braised, lean only 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Steak, baked, broiled or braised, lean only 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Stew meat, simmered, lean only 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Liver, fried beef
Beef 3 ounces 4.5-7.0 mg
Calf 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Pork 3 ounces 7.4+ mg
Chicken or turkey 1/2 cup diced 4.5-7.0 mg
Liverwurst 1 ounce 1.8-4.3 mg
Tongue, braised 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Turkey, dark meat, roasted, without skin 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Fish and Seafood
Clams, steamed, boiled, or canned, drained 3 ounces 7.4+ mg
Mackerel, canned, drained 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Mussels, steamed, boiled, or poached 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Baked, broiled, or steamed 3 ounces 7.4+ mg
Canned, undrained 3 ounces 4.5-7.0 mg
Shrimp, broiled, steamed, boiled, or canned, drained 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Trout, baked or broiled 3 ounces 1.8-4.3 mg
Dry Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Beans, black eyed peas (cowpeas), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), red kidney, or white, cooked 1/2 cup 1.8-4.3 mg
Lentils, cooked 1/2 cup 1.8-4.3 mg
Soybeans, cooked 1/2 cup 4.5-7.0 mg
Nuts and Seeds
Pine nuts (pignolias) 2 tablespoons 1.8-4.3 mg
Pumpkin or squash seeds, hulled, roasted 2 tablespoons 1.8-4.3 mg

Breads, pasta, and cereals listed are enriched unless otherwise noted.Remember that meats, poultry, and seafood are the best absorbed sources by the body, only some of the iron content in plant-based foods is absorbed regardless of the amount of iron the food contains.

Caring of Child

The effects of iron-deficiency anemia will depend on the duration and severity of the anemia. If left untreated, iron-deficiency anemia may lead to behavioral or learning problems. These may not be reversible, even with later iron supplementation.

But in most cases, iron-deficiency anemia is preventable by following some basic recommendations: ∑ Infants younger than 1 year should drink only breast milk or an infant formula supplemented with iron. The breastfed infant should be given iron supplements.
∑ Children under 2 years should have no more than 24 ounces of cow's milk a day. As noted earlier, milk can inhibit absorption of iron, and drinking too much milk can dampen a child's appetite for other iron-rich foods. In addition, too much cow's milk has been shown to irritate the gastrointestinal tract, which may cause intestinal bleeding - a cause of iron loss.
∑ Iron-fortified products such as cereal can be a great way to get children - especially those under the age of 2 years - to get more iron.
∑ A variety of foods can provide your family with nutritious sources of iron: lean meats, eggs, green leafy vegetables, dried peas and beans, blackstrap molasses, raisins, and whole-grain bread.
∑ Make sure children or teens on a vegetarian diet are getting enough iron. Because iron from meat sources is more easily absorbed than iron from plant sources, you may need to add iron-fortified foods to their diet.

Proper nutrition, which includes a diet rich in iron, is important for all children. Establishing good eating habits early in life will help to prevent iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia.


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