Iron: Importance, Recommendations, and Main Sources

Iron Importance, Recommendations, and Main Sources 1

Iron is a vital mineral. It has several functions in the body, and its low intake may be the cause of iron deficiency anemia, a frequent problem.

The iron is an essential mineral for the body to function correctly. Is naturally present in many foods, added to others and available as a dietary supplement also.

Iron Importance, Recommendations, and Main Sources 1

All body cells contain some amount of this mineral, but the majority is in the haemoglobin of red blood cells.


The main objective of this nutrient in the body is to carry oxygen in the hemoglobin of red blood cells from the blood to the entire body, so that the cells can produce energy.

But its importance does not stop here, it has other actions:

  • As a component of myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles, iron supports metabolism.
  • It is necessary for the growth, development, functioning, normal cell, and synthesis of some hormones and connective tissue.
  • It also contributes to the transmission of nerve impulses (signals that coordinate the actions of different parts of the body).


While the body easily adapts to the lower levels or higher, absorbing more or less iron as needed, the recommended levels are established to meet the needs of the vast majority of the population.

Here are the current recommended intake levels – Recommended Dietary Allowances (Rda) – for iron, according to age and sex, according to the “Dietary Reference Intakes Table, the Food and Nutrition Board, National Academy of Sciences”:

  • Children from 1 to 3 years: 7 mg
  • Children from 4 to 8 years: 10 mg
  • Children from 9 to 13 years: 8 mg
  • Boys from 14 to 18 years: 11 mg
  • Girls from 14 to 18 years: 15 mg
  • Adult men: 8 mg
  • Adult women up to 50 years: 18 mg
  • Adult women after 50 years: 8 mg

Iron Importance, Recommendations, and Main Sources 2


Iron deficiency is, perhaps, one of the disorders nutritional the most common. Appears more often in menstruating women, pregnant women, and older children.

The deficiency can be caused by:

  1. Insufficient intake of iron
  2. Absorption deficient or insufficient iron
  3. Excessive loss of blood.

When the diet does not contain enough iron, the reserves are used. To the extent that the reserves are depleted, hemoglobin levels decrease.

This causes symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue;
  • Tongue swollen;
  • Inhibition of the immune system;
  • Decrease in mental functioning;
  • Commitment to the social development of children;
  • Problems in the regulation of body temperature.


In the feed there are two different types of iron: heme and non-heme.

The heme is derived from the breakdown of hemoglobin and is only found in animal products. In addition, it is more well absorbed by the body.

Some of the foods that most have iron heme are: chicken liver, beef, lamb, salmon, pork and chicken.

The non-heme is present in plant foods, such as beans, lentils, tofu, cashews, spinach and almonds; and foods enriched with this mineral, such as breakfast cereals weetabix and all bran.

To increase the absorption of the mineral from plant sources, it is recommended your intake along with animal sources, or with a good source of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries , or peppers.

Vitamin C is a vitamin that increases the absorption of iron, so that all the major health organizations also recommend the intake of foods rich in vitamin C, in an attempt to increase the absorption of iron in the body.

Iron Importance, Recommendations, and Main Sources 3


The iron is a very important nutrient for the proper functioning of the body, so we should focus your intake and thereby prevent health problems, such as anemia, deficiency of this mineral.

For best absorption, you should consume-whether animal sources and vegetable sources together, as well as if you should eat foods rich in vitamin C.

A good way of improving the intake is by following a healthy and balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods.