Top 10 health benefits of iron-rich foods

Top 10 health benefits of iron-rich foods
Iron is one of the most essential minerals that your body needs. © Shutterstock

From carrying oxygen through your body to fostering better sleep, iron does it all for you. But still, the iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide. Don't undermine this mineral. Here is why.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : March 27, 2019 8:59 PM IST

Are you getting enough iron from your foods? This mineral serves as an essential nutrient for you. Known for making red blood cells and carrying oxygen throughout your body, iron is vital for development. Your body preserves around 25 per cent of iron in ferritin (intracellular protein) as a backup. It is used if the levels of this essential mineral in your body deplete owing to less iron content in your foods. While this essential nutrient has a plethora of health benefits, its deficiency can be damaging in more ways than one. Insufficient iron may cause unusual tiredness, paleness, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, and restless legs. Most importantly, iron deficiency can cause anemia, which affects around 1.62 billion people globally every year, says a WHO data. A child between the age of 4 and 8 needs at least 10 mg of it, whereas those between the age group of 9 and 13 needs 8 mg. Anaemia is known to affect more females then men as they lose blood every month during periods. Therefore, they need around 18 mg of iron per day since their adolescence days. However, men just need 8 mg. To increase your iron intake, you can eat foods like white beans, dark chocolates, spinach, oyster, lentils, blueberries, tomatoes, and cashew nuts. Here are reasons to look for ways of maintaining the required iron levels in your body.

Iron acts as an oxygen carrier

[caption id="attachment_657862" align="alignnone" width="655"]blood-circulation This vital mineral helps in carrying oxygen throughout the body. Shutterstock[/caption]

For efficient body metabolism, you need proper circulation of oxygen in the body and iron helps you with that. A substantial amount of iron enables transportation of oxygen throughout your body without any hindrance, says a study published in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.

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Improves your cognitive function

[caption id="attachment_657863" align="alignnone" width="655"]cognitive function Iron can stimulate cognitive activity and can help prevent disorders related to it. Shutterstock[/caption]

Your brain requires oxygen to perform its functions successfully. Iron helps your blood to transport oxygen to the brain. This mineral enhances your brain development and promotes its functions, says a study published in the journal Seminars in Pediatric Neurology. Proper blood flow to your brain can stimulate cognitive activity and can also help create new neural pathways in order to prevent cognitive disorders.

Treats restless leg syndrome

[caption id="attachment_657864" align="alignnone" width="655"]restless-legs-syndrome Iron helps in getting rid of muscle spasms. Shutterstock[/caption]

According to a research published in the journal Age and Ageing, iron deficiency is associated with restless leg syndrome. It is a neurological condition in which you feel an irresistible urge to move your legs due to muscle spasms caused by decreased iron levels in the blood. You can get rid of this problem by taking iron supplements as per the doctor s recommendations.

Helps you tackle anaemia

[caption id="attachment_657865" align="alignnone" width="655"]Anaemia Increasing iron intake is necessary for curing anaemia. Shutterstock[/caption]

Anaemia generally affects children and women during menstruation or pregnancy. Deficiency of iron leads to a decreased number of red blood cells in the body causing anaemia. It can further lead to life-threatening conditions like organ failure. Increasing iron intake is necessary for curing anaemia, finds a study published in the journal Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey.

Enhances muscle contraction

[caption id="attachment_657866" align="alignnone" width="655"]muscle tone Low levels of iron can disrupt your muscle contraction. Shutterstock[/caption]

Iron supplies oxygen to your muscle tissues and facilitates its contraction, which is vital for maintaining muscle tone and elasticity. According to a research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, weak muscle is a noticeable symptom of anemia, a condition characterised by low levels of iron.

Boosts your immune system

[caption id="attachment_657867" align="alignnone" width="655"]immune system Your immune system needs a good amount of iron for faster healing process. Shutterstock[/caption]

Iron is extremely important to strengthen your immune system. It promotes the growth of red blood cells (RBC), which potentially repair damaged cells and tissues by providing them oxygen. This healing process needs this essential nutrient.

Fosters better sleep

[caption id="attachment_657868" align="alignnone" width="655"]sleep Iron can help you beat the conditions that can rob you off your sleep. Shutterstock[/caption]

According to a study published in the journal Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, iron regulates your circadian rhythms. This helps you sleep better. Several studies have found that most of the people who face issues with sleep are iron deficient. Fluctuation of blood pressure, which is one of the reasons behind disrupted sleep, can be handled if the count of your red blood cells goes up. Iron, as mentioned earlier, is useful for promoting RBC. That is how it plays an indirect role in the treatment of insomnia. Iron can also help you beat the conditions that can rob you off your sleep: Restless leg syndrome and anxiety.

Revs up your metabolism

[caption id="attachment_657869" align="alignnone" width="655"]metabolism A good amount of iron in the body promotes your body's metabolism. Shutterstock[/caption]

For good metabolism, your body cells require oxygen which is transported through red blood cells with the help of iron. Iron actually binds with the oxygen molecules to help them circulate fast in the body. Also, this nutrient helps in the formation of red blood cells.

Helps in neurotransmitter synthesis

[caption id="attachment_657870" align="alignnone" width="655"]dopamine Iron plays a crucial role in the proper synthesis of neurotransmitters that make you feel good. Shutterstock[/caption]

Neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are essential for activities controlled through your brain. Norepinephrine increases skeletal muscle contraction and also helps in improving heart rate. Also known as feel-good hormone , dopamine plays a significant role in improving attention, sleep, movement, and learning. Serotonin also helps you feel happy. It is a chemical that regulates your sleep, mood, sexual desire, and appetite. Iron plays a crucial role in the synthesis of these neurotransmitters.

Takes away fatigue

[caption id="attachment_657871" align="alignnone" width="655"]fatigue Iron can potentially keep you energised and help prevent fatigue. Shutterstock[/caption]

Iron deficiency is linked to the chronic fatigue which affects both men and women. You can prevent it by adding foods rich in iron in your diet. It will not only help you keep fatigue at bay but also keep your energy levels up.