All that most people know about iron is that red meats are rich in the nutrient.

Many people are surprised to know that people who eat mainly a plant-based diet get as much, or more, iron as people who don’t. Excellent sources of iron come from plant foods.

Undoubtedly, more health problems are caused by iron deficiency than any other lacking nutrient. It is interesting to note too, that excessive iron is the cause of many global illnesses as well. Iron is important, and should be understood and managed, in order to find the right balance dietarily.

The benefits of iron are twofold. Iron enhances oxygen support and energy production. Our cells requires a protein called hemoglobin which transports oxygen, picking it up and releasing it into our bodies in a specific way. When the necessary amounts of dietary iron decrease, the ability to tolerate exercise goes down and anemia occurs.

Iron also plays a vital role in transporting oxygen to tissues, making it possible to support metabolism in muscles and active organs. When iron is depleted, this function is compromised and general fatigue usually occurs, long before laboratory tests indicate a problem.

It should be noted that the risk of iron deficiency is substantial in women. According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.

Though it is rare in men and postmenopausal women, problems occur generally for 10% of women of childbearing age. Young children are the other major at-risk group.

Be aware that certain factors contribute to iron deficiency too like blood donation, endurance exercise, and gastrointestinal problems. Also, be aware of copper deficiency, which plays a role in anemia.

To increase iron intake, consume vitamin C with iron-rich meals. Increase vitamin A intake to improve iron’s ability for making blood red blood cells too.

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