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4 Amazing Health Benefits of Iron

February 25, 2022
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When you think about iron, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It might be working out (i.e. lifting weights and pumping some iron). Or, it could be the clothes iron you use to get those annoying wrinkles out.

You probably aren’t thinking about the mineral in your body that can cause you to feel fatigued, lightheaded, or weak if you don’t get enough of it.

But according to the World Health Organization, Clinical Medicine Journal: Iron Deficiency Without Anaemia: a Diagnosis That Matters is the most common nutritional disorder worldwide. In this article, you’ll learn about the 4 amazing benefits of iron, its connection with your gut, and how you can get more of it in your diet.


What Is Iron?

Iron is a mineral in the body that plays a key role in your energy levels, immune health, and gastrointestinal processes. It’s used to make hemoglobin (a protein in your red blood cells) and myoglobin (a protein found in muscle tissue). Both carry oxygen throughout your body.


What’s the Deal With Iron and Your Gut?

Your duodenum, the first part of your small intestine, helps support healthy iron levels. However, underlying gut problems or certain conditions, like Celiac Disease, Crohn’s, or ulcerative colitis can make it difficult for iron to be absorbed.


Why Is Iron Important? 4 Key Benefits

 

1. Less Fatigue and More Energy

When you’re low on iron, your body struggles to produce the hemoglobin needed to make red blood cells. Less red blood cells mean less oxygen. And without a sufficient oxygen supply, you’re likely to start feeling tired and fatigued.

Instead of hopping out of bed and starting your day with a gut-friendly breakfast, you’re bound to hit the snooze button a few times more.  

What exactly happens when you’re low on iron? If you’re low on iron for too long, it may lead to Mayoclinic: Iron Deficiency Anemia. Besides the traditional deficiency symptoms like extreme tiredness and headache, some other potential signs to look out for include brittle nails and craving dirt. And no, we’re not talking about the delicious mud and worms dessert recipe you might’ve had as a kid. You know—the one with the chocolate pudding and the gummy worms. We’re talking actual dirt here.

2. More Brain Power

You notice that you’re more mentally sluggish than normal and your ability to concentrate has gone down the tubes. When you’re not getting enough iron, feelings like that can be typical. Cognitively, you just might not feel like you’re all the way there, or have the brainpower to focus like you’re used to. 

Luckily, NCBI: Iron Deficiency and Cognitive Functions that one of the benefits of iron is a boost in cognitive power, so you can get back on track and within a normal range. 

3. Healthy Pregnancy

According to NCBI: Assessment of Subjective Sleep Quality in Iron Deficiency Anaemia, 50% of pregnant women in developed countries have iron deficiency anemia.

During pregnancy, the amount of blood throughout your body increases to help provide the baby inside with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. To make more red blood cells, you’ll need more iron. Typically, your body is able to absorb most of the iron during pregnancy. However, whether it be because of your diet or some other reason, you may run into iron deficiency. 

When you fail to get enough iron during pregnancy, it can boost the risk of premature birth and low birth rate. It can also have an impact on cognitive and behavioral progress in infants.

4. Better Sleep

Have trouble sleeping at night? Are you always tossing and turning? 

Research has linked iron deficiency to lower sleep quality. In one particular study, participants were separated into two groups—one group had been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia and the other group was considered the “healthy” control group. Sleep quality was worse in the group with iron deficiency than in the healthy control group. 

How to Get More Iron in Your Diet

There are two primary types of iron—heme and non-heme. Heme iron includes animal sources of food, such as meat or seafood. One of the main heme iron benefits is that it’s is easier for your body to absorb. Non-heme iron (which is mostly found in plants), typically takes multiple rounds of absorption and includes things like beans, vegetables, or fortified grains.

If you’re a vegetarian, some of the best vegetables for you are leafy greens. Beans, whole grains, and tofu are also good options. Pairing iron and vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, green peppers, etc) can help your body absorb iron more efficiently.

Consuming iron and vitamin A or beta-carotene are good for absorption too. So, foods like cantaloupe, broccoli, carrots, and squash.

Taking iron supplements or pills is also popular, but you should always discuss it with your doctor first.

To get you started, here’s a more comprehensive list of some iron-rich foods:

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Tempeh
  • Shrimp
  • Legumes
  • Tofu
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat products
  • Oat cereals
  • Raisins
  • Broccoli 
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach or kale
  • Cabbage 
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dark chocolate

How Much Iron Do You Need Per Day?

You can’t reap the benefits of iron without knowing how much you should be getting each day. That will depend primarily on your sex and age. For babies, children, and teens—their iron needs are wide-ranging. Iron needs are most consistent for adult men, while women’s iron needs vary depending on age or if they’re pregnant or nursing. 

Here’s a visual breakdown of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):

Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA’s) For Iron

iron-per-day

 

The table above is for RDA’s of non-vegetarians. If you’re a vegetarian, then your RDA will be about 1.8 times higher. That’s because heme iron in meat is more bioavailable (meaning your body can absorb it and use it easier) than non-heme iron from plant-based foods.

Benefits of Iron Summary

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional problem in the world today, despite it being super important for your energy levels, immune system, and gastrointestinal health. 

It’s one of those things you might not even realize until you start experiencing symptoms. But rather than wait, you can be proactive by finding out the role your own gut microbiome plays in iron absorption for your body. Is your body absorbing iron efficiently or are you on the verge of iron deficiency? Or even worse, anemia?

Click Here to Learn more about: Customized Probiotics and Gut Microflora Test Program.


References:
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-Consumer/
Clinical Medicine Journal: Iron Deficiency Without Anaemia: a Diagnosis That Matters
Mayoclinic: Iron Deficiency Anemia
NCBI: Iron Deficiency and Cognitive Functions
NCBI: Assessment of Subjective Sleep Quality in Iron Deficiency Anaemia
Harvard College: the Nutrition Source
NIH: Vitamin a - Health Professional
NIH: Iron - Fact Sheet for Health Professionals

 

Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. When he’s behind his computer, you can find Chad at the gym doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, or out at a game rooting on his hometown teams. 


Read more about Chad- Health & Wellness Copywriter.

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