It’s not easy to keep up with the functions of vitamins and minerals in the body, and one of the most confusing of these nutrients is iron.
While many people may think of iron deficiency as being a problem for women only, the fact is that both men and women of all ages need to think about iron intake and what it can do for the body. Let’s find out more about this essential trace mineral that plays a role in many processes that contribute to energy utilization .**
Iron in the body
Many individuals visit their physicians only to find out they are or at risk of being iron deficient through a simple blood test. Iron is a vital component to the hemoglobin present in red blood cells that is necessary to deliver oxygen to cells throughout the body, including muscle cells.** Iron also supports the normal production of red blood cells, and is critical to maintaining energy metabolism.** In addition, iron works with enzymes involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.**
Women and iron
There’s a reason iron is associated with women despite also being important to men: women of childbearing age are the most common demographic suffering from iron deficiency according to the Centers for Disease Control. Pregnant women are also commonly deficient in iron due to needing more iron than usual. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it was estimated that 14-20% of women and about 3% of men may be deficient in iron. Because menstruation is a factor in women being iron deficient, it is recommended by the CDC that adolescent girls and women of childbearing age get an iron test from a physician every five to ten years. Post-menopausal women are not typically iron deficient.
Children and iron
After women, children are the next population that can be prone to iron deficiency. Iron is important at all stages of development, and at the age of one year, most doctors will conduct an iron test to make sure the baby is nutritionally on track. Breastmilk contains iron, but for mothers who are not breastfeeding, there are formulas fortified with iron. This is especially important for children who were born premature, as they may need more iron than babies born at full-term. When children begin eating solid foods, they can begin to consume iron-rich foods.
Food sources of iron
Iron is most commonly found in meats, including fish, chicken, red meat, and shellfish. Organ meats like the liver, kidneys, hearts, and the brain are also rich in iron. Many baked goods including bread and dried cereals are fortified with iron. Plant sources of iron include tofu, cashews, lentils, and leafy green vegetables like spinach. To improve the absorption of iron in the body, these foods should be consumed with foods that are high in Vitamin C, like berries, citrus fruits, and sweet potatoes.
Sometimes iron supplements can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Puritan’s Pride Easy Iron contains iron bis-glycinate, which is gentle on the stomach and more easily tolerated. To see all of the iron supplements that Puritan’s Pride offers, check out our iron category.