Iron: What it is, sources, what it is for, Rich foods, benefits, deficiency and excess

Iron , is a mineral nutrient needed to maintain  the body’s well-being, energy and healthy metabolism, aids cellular health. In addition, it is involved in many enzyme functions.

It is a fundamental element for digesting food and absorbing nutrients.

Daily intake of this nutrient is essential, as it helps transport oxygen through the blood so that the body performs its functions correctly.

Meat, poultry and their products, dairy products or fruits and vegetables are foods rich in iron.

However, a lack of iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies and anemia can develop . In addition, consuming this mineral helps to metabolize proteins and helps in the manufacture of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which are responsible for preventing anemia .

What is and function of iron

Iron , is a mineral nutrient needed to maintain  the body’s well-being, energy and healthy metabolism, aids cellular health. In addition, it is involved in many enzyme functions.

It is a fundamental element for digesting food and absorbing nutrients.

Daily intake of this nutrient is essential, as it helps transport oxygen through the blood so that the body performs its functions correctly.

Meat, poultry and their products, dairy products or fruits and vegetables are  foods rich in iron.

However, a lack of  iron  is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies and  anemia can develop .

Consuming this mineral helps to metabolize proteins and helps in the manufacture of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which are responsible for preventing anemia .

What is iron used for?

After all, what is iron for ? what functions in the current body:

  • Involved in the transport of oxygen.
  • It participates in the production of substances and compounds in the blood (hemoglobin, the pigment in the blood).
  • It plays an important role in collagen formation .
  • Actively participates in DNA synthesis.
  • It is part of the process of cellular respiration.
  • Important in the production and release of energy.
  • This helps keep the immune system in good condition.
  • Participate in a wide variety of chemical reactions.

Main Sources of Iron

Here are the main sources:

FoodIron content (100 gr.)
Curry powder)29,6 mg
enriched cereals16,7 mg
lamb liver7,5 mg
pork kidney6,4 mg
apricots4,1 mg
Whole grain bread2,7 mg
Calf2,4 mg
Chocolate2,4 mg
Eggs2 mg
Cress1,6 mg
White bread1,6 mg
Cabbage0,6 mg
Red wine0,5 mg
White fish0,5 mg
Potatoes0,4 mg

Iron benefits:

Iron helps in the formation of hemoglobin

All people lose a lot of the nutrient on a daily basis, mainly through the blood.

Women lose during menstruation, men even when they make a small cut when shaving.

Therefore, we must ensure that we take the necessary amount for our body.

The main function of this mineral is that it helps in the formation of hemoglobin, the molecular mass that transports oxygen from Organs respiratory organs to the tissues, that is, something vital for our body.

Iron Helps Keep Muscles Strong

It is the main nutrient for our muscles.

On this mineral depends that they are strong and healthy and prevents them from becoming weak and deteriorating little by little.

It also helps the supply of oxygen that the muscles require while they are working.

Therefore, it is essential for people who exercise.

Prevents Cognitive Disorders

Iron is related to the well-being of our brain, as it helps the supply of oxygen to this organ so important for life.

Its sufficient intake can stimulate brain activity and prevent cognitive disorders, therefore, it is essential for our mental health.

Increase your Energy

We know that on many occasions you start working without sleep, very tired and without strength, not to mention being tired after eating.

But boosting your energy doesn’t mean drinking millions of coffees.

What you should probably do is eat foods rich in iron .

Without it, your body will work a lot harder. So stick to a diet rich in this mineral to fight fatigue and boost your energy.

Try the almonds!

Improves the Immune System

If you get the flu and get sick very often, your immune system may be quite weak.

In other words , it means that the levels of the nutrient in your body may be too low.

In addition, this nutrient plays a key role in our immune system, because it helps the body fight off diseases and infections.

Pay attention to this matter and make sure you are taking in the amount of nutrient you need.

A visit to the doctor or a simple blood test will let you know if this is your problem.

And if you have to take iron , you can take it early in the morning, try having a natural orange juice with spinach . Great way to ingest this mineral!

Healthier skin, hair and nails

Surely you have heard about the benefits of keratin as a beauty treatment for our body.

For this protein to be formed, iron is needed.

If your mineral levels are low, your hair, skin and nails will notice and you will have dry hair, dull skin and brittle nails.

Essential for pregnant women

Pregnant women are often low in iron because they lose a lot of this mineral in the baby’s growth and development.

In the last six weeks of pregnancy, the baby builds up its own store of the mineral, so the loss triples.

It is recommended that they follow a diet rich in this mineral and that they also take a vitamin complex, always recommended by the doctor, so that they do not have problems before, during and after childbirth.

fight insomnia

Are you having trouble sleeping?

Sleeping at the right times is vital for our rest and our health in general.

If you suffer from insomnia , what you should do to treat this problem is make sure you are taking in the amount of iron your body needs.

Relieves TPM

Blood loss during menstruation leaves women at a higher risk of anemia , which is why we need more iron than men.

These problems increase if we suffer from premenstrual syndrome, headaches , cramps , irritability, depression .

That is, foods rich in iron can really help you relieve them.

Prevents Anemia

Eating foods rich in this nutrient favors the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin.

As a result, oxygen is able to reach all cells, thus reducing the risk of anemia .

Promotes High Energy Levels and Helps Have a Positive Mood

It helps oxygen reach every cell and helps the body digest protein and absorb nutrients from food.

In this way, it helps the body to stay active and have a positive mood.

Helps Maintain Cognitive Function and Motor and Mental Development

The non-deficiency of this mineral helps in the development of motor function and facilitates mental functions, such as learning.

Prevent Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome involves pain and spasms in the body – especially the lower train – when the body is in the resting phase.

Other Benefits of Iron:

Foods Rich in Iron


Spinach is a great source of Iron , One cup of spinach contains 6.4 mg [1] of Iron .

While this can be eaten raw, cooking it provides the most amount of iron , along with other vitamins and minerals.

Brussel sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a good choice of foods rich in iron , each serving of 78 grams and 1/2 cup cooked contains about 0.94 milligrams of iron.

This amount is equivalent to 6% of the 8 milligrams of recommended daily iron intake for a healthy adult on a 2,000-calorie diet.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center[2] Iron obtained from plant sources such as Brussels sprouts is better absorbed by the body when accompanied by vitamin C.
Each serving of Brussels sprouts also contains 80 percent of the vitamin C RDA, making the iron in Brussels sprouts readily available.


Broccoli is an excellent source of iron . It is also among the vegetables that contain a lot of vitamin C, which helps to absorb iron.

Broccoli is incredibly nutritious. Additionally, a 1-cup (156-gram) serving of cooked broccoli contains 1 mg of iron, which is 6% of the DV. [3]

What’s more, a serving of broccoli is also rich in vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron better.

The same serving is also rich in folate and provides 5 grams of fiber, as well as some vitamin K.

Additionally, Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage.

Cruciferous vegetables contain indole, sulforaphane, and glucosinolates, which are plant compounds believed to protect against cancer. [4] [5]

in addition to all the health benefits, especially an excellent source of iron, broccoli can be planted at home, taking advantage of how to plant broccoli at home . [6]


Arugula is a good alternative for Iron – rich foods and contains 1.4 milligrams of iron per 100 grams.

  • 1 sheet is equivalent to 2 grams.
  • 0.5 cup equals 10 grams.

It is also low in calories, which makes this food an excellent addition to the diet.


Potatoes , is one of the foods that are easy to prepare, whether for mains, main course or a side dish.

Although it has a high calorie count, a whole piece of this vegetable can provide 3.2 mg of iron .


Apricots are a good choice of iron – rich fruits .

The fruit provides your body with around 1 to 2 mg of iron, which can be 35% of your recommended daily iron intake .


Strawberries are the best fruits that ever graced the planet.

The beautiful red fruit contains iron and a good amount of vitamin C (which helps in better absorption of iron).

Good for you and great taste, what more could you want?

Strawberries contain about 0.4 milligrams per 100 grams.

pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a tasty and easy-to-find snack.

A 28-gram serving of pumpkin seeds contains 2.5 mg of iron, which is 14% of your daily iron requirement. [7]

In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good alternative to foods rich in iron and other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K , zinc and manganese .

They are also among the best sources of magnesium, which many people are low on. [8]

They also contain 40% of the magnesium requirement, which helps reduce the risk of insulin resistance, diabetes and depression. [9]


Soy is a good option for iron -rich foods, especially for vegans and vegetarians.

Legumes have proven to be an excellent food for increasing hemoglobin levels.

They contain folic acid and vitamin C. remembering that soy contains about 15.7 milligrams per 100 grams.

Black bean

This particular type of grain is made up of protein , fiber , and, of course, iron . Therefore, you can get 3.6 mg  in a cup.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds contain 6.8 milligrams of iron per 100 grams:

  • 1 cup equals 134 grams.
  • 1 spoon equals 28 grams.

Sunflower seeds  also contain high amounts of vitamin E and other minerals.

For example , they are a great snack for work and also help suppress appetite naturally.

Integral rice

Brown rice is another brilliant choice to meet your daily iron intake.

Swap white rice for brown rice for a healthier eating option.

Every 100 grams of brown rice contains about 0.4 milligrams of iron.


Tofu is a soy-based food that is very popular among vegetarians and in some Asian countries.

A half-cup serving (126 grams) provides 3.4 mg of iron, which is 19% of your daily iron requirement.

Tofu is also a good source of thiamine and several minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and selenium.

Plus, it provides 22 grams of protein per serving.

Tofu contains unique compounds called isoflavones, which have been linked to improving insulin sensitivity, lowering the risk of heart disease, and alleviating menopausal symptoms.

Bitter chocolate

Dark chocolate is incredibly delicious and nutritious.

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving contains 3.4 mg of iron, which is 19% of the nutrient’s daily requirement.

This small serving also packs 56% and 15% of your daily needs for copper and magnesium, respectively.

Plus, it contains prebiotic fiber, which nourishes the friendly bacteria in your gut.

One study found that cocoa powder and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity than powders and juices made from acai and blueberries (53Trusted Source).

Studies have also shown that chocolate has beneficial effects on cholesterol and can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

However, not all chocolates are created equal.

Compounds called flavonoids are believed to be responsible for chocolate’s benefits, and the flavanol content of dark chocolate is much higher than that of milk chocolate.

Therefore, it is best to consume chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa to get the most benefits.

Shrimp and seafood

The super versatile and delicious seafood option contains a good amount of the nutrient to satisfy your daily intake.

Therefore, every 100 grams of shrimp contains about 3 milligrams of iron.

Videos: Foods Rich in Iron

Iron Deficiency

Iron is a fundamental mineral to ensure the body’s energy, proper metabolism, general cellular health and the non-appearance of anemia .The lack of this nutrient in the body is derived from a poor diet, where foods that contain iron are poor in the diet.

Insufficiency of the mineral in the body means that you are not able to produce the hemoglobin and red blood cells needed to ensure their correct development.

Symptoms of iron deficiency

A deficiency of this mineral can be diagnosed thanks to the symptoms that usually lead to low levels of this mineral:

  • Anemia
  • Chronic fatigue due to low energy
  • Pale skin
  • Respiratory distress and abnormal pulse
  • hormonal imbalance
  • Sleep and eating disorders
  • weight change
  • Lack of concentration, tiredness, mood swings
  • Difficulty performing muscular physical activities

daily dose of iron

The daily amount you need to consume of this mineral varies depending on your age, gender, and whether you eat a mostly plant-rich diet.

Below are the average recommended amounts per day in milligrams (mg).

Also, vegetarians who do not consume meat, poultry or seafood need nearly twice as much of the nutrient listed below because the body absorbs “heme” iron from animal sources better than “non-heme” iron from vegetables and iron -fortified foods. .

Babies up to 6 months old0,27 mg
Babies from 7 to 12 months of age11 mg
Children from 1 to 3 years old7 mg
Children from 4 to 8 years old10 mg
Children from 9 to 13 years old8 mg
Adolescents (men) 14 to 18 years of age11 mg
Adolescents (girls) 14 to 18 years of age15 mg
Adult men 19 to 50 years of age8 mg
Adult women 19 to 50 years of age18 mg
Adults 51 years of age or older8 mg
pregnant teenagers27 mg
pregnant women 27 mg
Adolescents in the breastfeeding period 10 mg
Breastfeeding women 9 mg

Although you can get the necessary amount of this nutrient through proper nutrition, with a doctor’s recommendation dietary supplements can be added.

What Types of Iron Diet Supplements Are There?

This mineral is present in many multivitamin/multimineral supplements and only in iron supplements .

Additionally, supplements are usually dispensed as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferric citrate, or ferric sulfate.

Dietary supplements that contain the mineral have a label that warns that they should be kept out of the reach of children.

However, accidental overdose of iron products is the leading cause of death from poisoning in children under 6 years of age.

do you consume enough?

In Brazil, most people consume this mineral enough. However, certain groups of people are more likely than others to have difficulty getting enough iron :

  • adolescents and women with heavy menstrual periods;
  • pregnant women and adolescents;
  • babies, especially if they are premature or low birth weight;
  • regular blood donors;
  • people with cancer, gastrointestinal disorders or heart failure.

Excess iron in the body

It’s not likely that you’ll get much of the nutrient from dietary sources.

However, high doses of supplements can cause harmful effects, ranging from gastrointestinal effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, to cardiovascular, nervous system, kidney and liver effects.

Children should never be given nutrient supplements unless under the direction of a physician or qualified healthcare professional.

In addition, iron toxicity (from high doses of supplements) in children can quickly result in serious effects or long-term death.

In other words, People with the following conditions may be at risk of harmful effects due to high iron intake.

That is, they should not consume excessive amounts of iron : hereditary hemochromatosis (a disease that causes the body to absorb and store excess iron), chronic alcoholism, liver disease , iron-loading abnormalities and certain genetic diseases.

In other words, it is recommended that adult men and postmenopausal women avoid iron supplements and highly fortified foods, because of their increased risk of iron overload , a condition that leads to the accumulation of iron in the body.

Possible side effects of iron

Iron supplements are generally safe and well tolerated if taken at the recommended dose.

The supplement may cause side effects in some people, including stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, fainting, and vomiting. Dark stools are also common.

Taking the supplement with food can often alleviate many of the symptoms.

Iron supplements can cause constipation during pregnancy.

Adding fiber to the diet or using a stool softener can often help control the symptom.

However , to reduce the risk of side effects, start with a lower dose and gradually increase the dose as tolerated.

Excessive doses of iron can lead to iron poisoning.

That is, even a single high dose (60 milligrams per kilogram of body weight or more) can lead to death.

Symptoms of iron poisoning usually become apparent six to 24 hours after dosing and may include severe vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, often with vomiting of blood or stool (especially in children).

Drug interactions

Intake of iron supplements containing 25 milligrams or more of elemental iron can affect zinc absorption and lead to zinc deficiency.

(Elemental iron is not the same thing as the iron supplement dose.

Also, check the product label or speak to your pharmacist who can show you the difference.)

Iron supplements may also interact with the following drugs :

In some cases, separating doses by two hours may be enough to avoid interactions.

In other cases, a dose adjustment may be necessary.

Talk to your doctor if you plan to use iron supplements and take these or any other chronic medication.


Iron is an important mineral that must be consumed regularly as your body cannot produce it on its own.

However, it should be noted that some people need to limit their intake of red meat and other foods rich in heme iron.

In other words , most people can easily regulate the amount they absorb from food.

Keep in mind that if you don’t eat meat or fish, you can increase absorption by including a source of vitamin C when eating plant sources of iron.



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