What is Iron ????

Are you tired of being tired all the time ?? Especially during the cycle of the month …. Lets learn more about iron and find solution to this issue… 

Every living cell – whether plant or animal contains iron. Most of the iron in the body is a component of the protein hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscle cells. The iron in both hemoglobin and myoglobin helps them carry and hold oxygen and then release it.
Hemoglobin in the blood carries oxygen from the lungs to tissues through out the body. Myoglobin holds oxygen for the muscles to use when they contract.


Iron is vital to the processes by which cells generate energy. Iron is also needed to make new cells amino acids, hormones and neurotransmitters. Normally, only about 10-15% of dietary iron is absorbed. But if the body supply is diminished or if need for increase is observed like in pregnancy absorption increases. The blood protein transferrin carries the iron to tissues throughout the body.

Worldwide iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency affecting more than one billion people. Women are prone to iron deficiency during reproduction years because of blood losses during mensuration. Pregnancy places further iron demands on women.

Men need 8 milligrams of iron each day.
Recommendation for women during childbearing years is 18 milligrams per day.
Iron occurs in heme and non-heme form in food. Iron in heme form is more absorbable than the non-heme form. Heme iron is found in meat, poultry and fish. Most of the iron people consume is non-heme from vegetable and grains.

Iron absorption from foods can be both enhanced and inhibited by various dietary factors. Vitamin C eaten in same meal doubles or triples non-heme iron absorption. Research has shown that consuming approx. ½ cup of any fruit juice in a meal increases absorption of iron from food consumed in same meal. Additionally, cooking in iron skillet can contribute iron to the diet.

Some substances ruin iron absorption : the tannins from tea and coffee, the calcium in milk, the phytates that supplement fiber in legumes and whole grain cereals. Fortunately, natural processing that happens to food products like soaking beans and fermenting soy products helps reduce the inhibitory effects of many of these factors.

Adding Iron in your diet:

  • Using whole grain, enriched and fortified product.
  • Eating drak green leafy vegetables.
  • Dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, preaches and prunes are high in iron.
  • Eating vitamin C rich fruits often with iron containing foods.
  • Not overdoing on dairy group.
  • Adding Fish and poultry to diet.

Dietary Factors that Enhance Iron absorption

Factors Source
Vitamin C Citrus fruits and juices, melons, berries, pineapples, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes.
Citric, malic and tartaric acid Fruits, vegetables, and vinegars
Specific food processing methods Leavening and baking bread, soaking and sprouting beans, grains and seeds, fermentation process,
MPF factor MFP (Meat, poultry and fish) enhances absorption of non-heme iron from other foods eaten at same time in addition to providing heme iron.


Foods and Factors that affect iron absorption

Food Hindering Factor Enhancing factor
Bran, While grains, legumes, nuts and seeds Phytates Leavening and baking bread, soaking and sprouting beans, grains and seeds
Soy products Soy(phytate or protein) Fermentation process for making some soy foods(miso, tempeh.), coagulation with gluconic acid derivative in making silken style tofu.
Tea,coffee Polyphenols
Calcium rich antacids, calcium phosphates, supplements Calcium, zinc and other minerals


Approximate iron content of selected plant food

Food Portion Iron(mg)
Grain Equivalents
Bread, enriched 1 slice or 1 oz 0.7-1.2
Bread, Whole wheat 1 slice 0.8
Cereal, ready to eat fortified 1 serving 2.0-2.4
Brown rice 1 cup cooked 1.0
Oatmeal 1 cup cooked 1.6
Pasta enriched 1 oz uncooked 0.7-1.2
Vegetables and Legumes
Beet Greens 1 cup cooked 2.7
Black beans 1 cup cooked 3.6
Broccoli 1 cup cooked 1.1
Brussels sprouts 1 cup cooked 0.7
Cabbage Chinese(bok choy) 1 cup cooked 1.8
Collard greens 1 cup cooked 2.2
Chickpeas(garbanzo beans) 1 cup cooked 4.6
Kale 1 cup 1.2
Lentils 1 cup cooked 6.6
Mustard greens 1 cup cooked 1.2
Peas green 1 cup cooked 2.4
Pinto beans 1 cup cooked 3.6
Potato 1 medium baked 2.2
Red Kidney beans 1 cup cooked 5.2
Sothern Peas(black eye) 1 cup cooked 4.3
Soybeans 1 cup cooked 8.8
Sweet potato 1 medium baked 1.1
Tofu(firm) ½ cup 3.4
Tofu(regular) ½ cup 6.7
Tomato 1 cup raw 0.5
Turnip greens 1 cup cooked 1.2
Winter squash 1 cup cooked 0.9-1.4
Apricots 5 halves 0.9
Raisins ¼ cup 0.7
Raspberries, frozen 1 cup 1.6
Strawberries 5 large 0.4
Watermelon 1 wedge 0.7
Almonds 1 oz 1.2
Cashews 1 oz 1.7
Peanuts 1 oz 0.6
Pecans 1 oz 0.7
Pine nuts 1 oz 1.6
Pumpkin nuts 1 oz 4.2
Sunflower seeds 1 oz 1.1
Tahini 1 tbsp 1.3
Walnuts 1 oz 0.8


Sources: Data from the USDA National nutrient database for standard reference. Available at http://www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata
Nutrition and Diet Therapy –Bruyne, Pinna and Whitney
Vegetarian sports Nutrition – Enette Larson-Meyer



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