Iron is a vitally important mineral, but many people, especially women, don’t meet their iron needs.
Iron is the most abundant mineral on earth, and one that nourishes nearly all life on the planet. Plants need iron to make chlorophyll, which allows the plant to convert energy from the sun into energy for the plant. And in humans, iron is found in every cell of the body. Yet for all its abundance, many of us don’t get enough iron in the diet. In fact, lack of iron is among the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide, including in the United States.
Iron’s number one job in the body is to transport oxygen from the lungs to all the cells and tissues of the body. Iron makes up part of the hemoglobin molecule in the blood (and the myoglobin protein in muscle) that performs this function. Equally important is iron’s role in helping to extract energy from your food. So, when you consider these two key functions of iron, it makes sense that if you don’t get enough of it in your diet, you might feel your energy flagging.
In general, women are more likely to experience a lack of iron than men. This is due partly to differences in diet, and also the fact that women of childbearing age experience iron losses through their monthly menstrual cycles. They also experience increased needs during pregnancy. Since the mineral is necessary for growth and development, shortages may occur among growing children and teenagers (especially girls).
With careful attention to diet, most people can meet their body’s needs for this important mineral. Here are four things you should know about iron.