The human body is largely made up of Oxygen (65%), Carbon (18%), Hydrogen (10%), and nitrogen (3%). Out of the remaining 4%, a very small percentage is of the mineral/trace elements such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, and copper. Though required in small quantities by the human body, they are vital for the proper functioning of our body. These elements are required in set quantities to react with other elements and form substances. These are also needed for certain important chemical reactions going on in the body. In case they are not present in the essential amounts a lot of bodily functions go haywire.
Iron and Its Significance
Iron is the central component of the protein hemoglobin of blood. It binds with oxygen in the lungs and carries it to all other cells in the body for optimal working. Besides Hemoglobin, several other proteins depend on oxygen for their functioning. Some of these are involved in cell division while some are in DNA synthesis. Further iron is needed to maintain the connective tissue of our body, the immune system and also produces some neurotransmitters in our brain.
To sum it up though iron is only 0.008% of the total body mass, it is still a vital element for the body’s optimum functioning and regulating body temperature.
On average, males have about 4 grams of iron, females 3.5 grams, and children usually have 2.5-3 grams in their bodies. Say about 1-1.5 grams of iron is lost daily in terms of urine, sweat, feces, tears, and vaginal fluid. At the times of growth spurts, blood loss, and pregnancy, losses increase. Iron is not produced in the body and hence arises the need to replenish our body with the lost stocks of iron. However, the body only absorbs 10-30 % of the iron we eat.
Simple blood tests are available to detect the levels of iron in your blood. Some symptoms that indicate the shortage of this trace element in your body are:
- Hair Loss
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet
- Brittle nails
- Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Extreme fatigue
In case you are detected with Iron deficiency, there is no need to panic and ring an alarm. This deficiency is easily reversible with the help of supplements or by including some of the rich sources of iron in your diet regularly.
Some foods that are rich sources of Iron
Meat and Poultry
- Lean beef
- Liver (except fish liver)
- Greens, all kinds
- Sweet Peas
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bean Sprouts
- Lima Beans
- Green Beans
Consumption of food rich in vitamin C helps our body to absorb iron better. Cooking in iron pots can also help increase the iron content of the food.
You might feel that your body is giving signals of iron deficiency by showing some of the symptoms. However, you must consult your family physician or a doctor before you start with any medication. Nevertheless, increasing the consumption of natural food substances rich in iron is never harmful. The body only absorbs what it needs and whatever it is deficient in. Rest all is excreted out of the body in terms of urine and feces.