Iron Rich Foods
Iron is a metallic chemical element. It has the symbol Fe. The atomic number of iron is 26. Iron and iron alloys are the most common metal used in daily life. Actual color of the fresh iron is silvery grey but it oxidizes in air and form the color of red or brown and by the result of oxidation it forms in to rust or ferric oxide. Naturally crystals of iron are very soft and adding small quantity of carbon to it makes the iron very hard. Pure iron is a metal but it is rarely available in the surface of the earth since it oxidizes at once when contact with oxygen and moisture. Hence metallic iron is obtained by chemical reduction.
Iron forms compounds and they are categorized as ferrous and ferric compounds.
It is a fact that women of childbearing age, elderly and infants should take food that contains good iron. But they do not do it and really there are many good foods that contain a good quantity of iron. The human blood is carrying oxygen only through iron and lack of iron content in the blood causes a condition called anemia. Iron is also more important to fight against infection and to make collagen. Collagen is the protein that makes up connective tissue, bone and cartilage. If there is no enough amount of iron medical disorder of the body develops irrelevant of age.
Iron in human being is available in two forms and they are called as heme and nonheme iron. They are richly available from animals. Meat is the main source for heme type and animal tissues are mainly available with nonheme iron. It is found in plant tissues also. It is also available in meats, milk, eggs, grains and plants. Heme iron is much easily absorbed by body than the nonheme iron.
Some of the food sources for heme iron are: beef liver, oyster, lean sirloin, skinless chicken and dark and red meat, fish, lentils, leaf vegetables, poultry, cereals and fortified bread. Some quantity of iron also available in molasses, teff and farina. Heme iron in meat is easily absorbed than iron of vegetables. But however it is believed that the hemoglobin contained in red meat may cause colon/rectal cancer.
Some of the food sources for nonheme iron: fortified cereals, soybean nuts, pumpkin seeds, bran,black strap molasses, cashews, lima beans, cooked rice, prunes, lima beans, red kidney beans and spinach.
Iron absorption of the body takes place according to the need of the body. When there is a deficiency, iron is absorbed fastly and when there is sufficient iron in the body, the absorption takes place slowly. Various factors also affect the absorption mechanism of the iron. Generally, heme iron is absorbed efficiently than nonheme iron. Heme iron enhances the absorption of nonheme iron. Vitamin C is the known best source that enhances the absorption of nonheme iron. Some materials causes decrease in the absorption of nonheme iron. Oxalic acid in spinach and chocolate, phytic acid found in wheat bran, tannins in tea are some of the examples.
Taking both heme and nonheme iron are best way to increase the intake and absorption of iron. Further, it is wise to take vitamin C with nonheme iron. Vitamin C is available in many food sources and it includes oranges, grapes, tomatoes and its juices, orange juices, papayas, broccoli,Bell peppers, potatoes and cabbage. Cooking the acidic foods in cost iron pots is best way to increase the iron content.
Iron fumarate is the common form of iron found mostly in all dietary supplements. But iron sulfate is readily able to absorb by body. Elemental iron is not much absorbed by body and it is absorbed by body only after it is converted in to ferrous compound by stomach acid. Elemental iron is added to most of the cereals used in breakfast and in wheat flour. Blood donors and pregnant women are more prone to lose their iron content easily in the blood and advised to take appropriate quantity of iron in their food.
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The human body loses its iron content everyday and only a small quantity is lost due to mucosal and epithelial cell sloughing. So iron level is maintained by regulating the iron uptake. Due to genetic defect the iron uptake is impaired in some persons and hence excess amount of iron is given. But this may lead to iron overload disorder. Hence, it is not advised to take iron supplements on their own without having an iron deficiency. Some diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease reveals accumulation of excess iron in the brain.
Ingested iron in excess may cause excess level of iron in the blood. High level of free ferrous iron content may react with peroxides and may produce free radicals and they are capable of damaging DNA, lipids and proteins. Iron toxicity occurs when there is free iron in the cell. Excess iron content in the blood level may cause coma, shock, liver failure, and may even cause death.