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Why do our bodies need iron?

22nd May 2017 by Jess

Our nutritionist tells us about the benefits of iron, gives us some of her favourite iron-rich foods, and answers all your iron-related questions.

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Our bodies are reliant on vitamins, minerals, essential fats, amino acids and other building blocks to steer our billions of chemical reactions that go on in our body every second of every single day, and without these raw materials, our bodies can’t thrive in the way they deserve.

Jess, graze nutritionist

What is iron?

Iron is a micronutrient that is found in meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit, wholegrains, soy and dark leafy greens. It has a vital role to play when it comes to great health and energy, as well as disease prevention. In fact, iron is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.

Iron is just one mineral out of the selection of 13 vitamins, 14 minerals, 20 amino acids, various fatty acids and all the plant nutrients, known as phytonutrients, which we know deliver our body an abundance of health.

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What does the mineral iron do?

  • Supports cognitive function
  • Needed for energy-yielding metabolism
  • Contributes to the formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin
  • Enables oxygen transport in the body
  • Supports the immune system
  • Reduces tiredness and fatigue
  • Helps cell division
  • Contributes to normal cognitive development of children
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How much iron do we need?

Children
7-12 months old: 11mg a day
1-3 years old: 7mg a day
4-8 years old: 10mg a day
9-13 years old: 8mg a day

Men
ages 13-18: 11mg a day
ages 19-64: 8.7mg a day

Women
ages 13-18: 15mg a day
ages 19-50: 14.8mg a day
ages 50-64: 8.7mg a day

Read about iron intake during pregnancy

Do vegans and vegetarians need more iron?

Our bodies find it much easier to absorb the iron from meat than from plants. This is why vegans and vegetarians can often suffer from iron deficiency (which is when the body doesn't have enough iron).

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What's the best way to get enough iron?

There are a few tips that will help your body absorb iron efficiently.

  1. Don't drink too much milk - no more than 650ml a day.
  2. Make sure you eat enough vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and strawberries.
  3. Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals.
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What are some iron rich foods?

Foods high in iron include:

  • Red meat, pork and poultry
  • Seafood - such as clams, mussels and oysters
  • Beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit – such as raisins, dried figs and dried apricots
  • Wholegrains – such as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and rye
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Soybean flour and edamame
  • Most dark-green leafy vegetables – such as watercress, curly kale and spinach

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references

  1. The Nemours Foundation. Iron and Your Child. KidsHealth.com 2017 http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/iron.html
  2. NHS Choices. Iron. 2017 http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Iron.aspx
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By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to Jess's blog at jessipes.co.uk for even more.

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