The Vital Nutrients series is back and better than ever! Today we're going to talk about iron, but before we begin, have you caught up on the other installments?
- What Are Micronutrients?
- Introduction to Micronutrients
- Micronutrients: Vitamin A
- Micronutrients: Folate
- Micronutrients: Iodine
- Micronutrients: Vitamin D
What Is It? Iron is a mineral that your body needs in order to grow and stay healthy. You'll find it in most meats, beans, and lentils, along with some nuts and seeds, and even greens! You can also get it through fortified foods.
What Does It Do? Your body uses iron to make certain hormones. Iron is also crucial for the formation of hemoglobin and myoglobin, which help transport oxygen throughout your body.
How Much Do I Need? Most men (age 19 and up) need 8mg of iron each day. Women age 19-50 need 18mg of iron daily, while women over 50 need only 8mg in the same time period.
Kids and teens need varying amounts of iron, as do pregnant and lactating people. You can find a detailed chart of those iron needs right here!
How Can I Get Enough Iron? There are two types of iron: heme iron and nonheme iron. Both can be found in meat, poultry, and seafood. Fortified foods are usually fortified with nonheme iron, and that's what plant sources of iron contain too. By eating a variety of these foods each week, you'll ensure you're meeting your iron needs.
It's easier for your body to absorb heme iron than it is for it to absorb nonheme iron, but vitamin C can help! Did you know that you can absorb more iron when you pair iron-rich foods with things like strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, and broccoli, which are all full of vitamin C?
Want a handout with a summary of these fun facts? Look no further: Meet Micronutrients: Iron
And stay tuned for the next micronutrient on deck: zinc!
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.