Iron is a very essential mineral that plays a key role in numerous bodily functions, the foremost amongst them being proper red blood cell synthesis and transport, to various tissues and organs in the system.
Iron, although being a mineral present in minuscule quantities in the body, is very vital for men and women of all ages, to ensure optimal metabolism, growth and development. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises iron as one of the central elements in the multiple micronutrient powder, featured in the WHO List Of Essential Medicines.
Iron is a trace element that is involved in several important functions in the body such as:
- Forms a structural part of haemoglobin, a protein that is crucial for carrying oxygen in the blood
- Ensures a healthy and safe pregnancy, by meeting vital nutrient requirements of both the expecting mother and the developing foetus.
- Boosts the system's innate immune activity
- Helps cells meet energy requirements, to carry out routine biochemical roles
- Regulates body temperature, keeping it at the normal range of 37 to 38 Celcius
- Promotes digestion and gut health
- Enhances brain function, memory and concentration
A host of healthy foods offer profuse amounts of iron, to meet the recommended daily requirements for people of all ages, be it children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged or the elderly. Also Check Out: 5 Foods Super-Rich In Iron That Are Essential For Overall Health-Infographics
Some common food sources abundant in iron include:
- Green beans and peas
- Lentils such as moong dal, urad dal, toor dal, channa
- Whole grains like ragi, oats, quinoa
- Dark green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, moringa leaves
- Cashew nuts
In many instances, growing children, adolescents and even young adults do not consume a healthy balanced diet, thus not obtaining adequate amounts of iron required by blood cells in the body. Hence, iron supplements, taken once a day following a meal, vastly supplement the system’s requirements of iron, to perform usual biochemical enzymatic functions.
Iron supplements usually are in the form of tablets of the ferrous sulphate salts, sometimes coupled with vitamin C, as vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that also increases the absorption of iron by tissues.
The deficiency of iron in the body leads to alarmingly low concentrations of healthy red blood cells. This, in turn, causes severe complications such as a lack of haemoglobin, wherein the muscles and other tissues do not receive oxygen supply to carry out their normal functions. This is a condition referred to as iron deficiency anaemia, common symptoms of which comprise fatigue, dizziness and difficulty breathing. Also Read: Anemia: 5 Awesome Natural Remedies To Boost Your Iron Levels
Consuming a diet rich in iron-fortified foods and taking iron supplements regularly can help alleviate symptoms of anaemia. However, always consult a doctor for professional medical advice, on the duration and dosage of taking iron supplements.
Too much iron in the body can cause grave consequences such as nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, internal bleeding and in rare cases, even a coma. It is hence strongly advised to seek professional medical advice, before consuming iron supplements.