You can tell iron is an important nutrient by the amount of supermarket products that are advertised as 'iron enriched'. Unfortunately, many of these products are enriched from ferrous, not ferric, compounds, which is more difficult for the body to absorb. Iron is found in many plants, but even that is often in a form that is difficult to absorb (some iron-rich vegetables like spinach also contain oxalic acid, which interferes with the absorption of iron and other minerals). Vitamin C greatly improves iron absorption.
Natural Food Sources
Enriched bread, beans, blackstrap molasses, chickpeas, clams, egg yolk, fish, green leafy vegetables, lentils, liver, mussels, oysters, peaches, prunes, raisons, red meat, seaweed, seeds, soybean flour.
Iron binds with hemoglobin molecules and carries oxygen in your blood and throughout your body. It is involved in enzyme activities related to energy storage and availability. Iron also forms part of several enzymes and proteins in the body.
Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which causes lethargy, poor concentration, pale skin and shortness of breath. Vegetarians have to ensure they get an adequate iron intake, as do menstruating or pregnant women.
Iron toxicity is rare from diet alone, but may be caused by excess supplements. Symptoms include liver, spleen and tissue damage, and can also lead to a zinc deficiency. Keep iron supplements away from children.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
Men: 10 mg
Women: 15 mg