Iron is a vital trace element. It occurs in the organism in the red blood pigment, in muscle protein and in numerous enzymes. In the red blood cells, it transports the oxygen, in addition, the metallic element plays a role in the production of energy and the production of many important substances. Iron is primarily concerned with the processes in which oxygen plays a role: it is needed for the oxidation processes and thus energy production in the cell and cell respiration, is responsible for the oxygen storage in myoglobin, the red muscle dye and - bound to hemoglobin, the blood pigment of the red blood cells - for the transport of oxygen in the blood to the cells. In addition, iron is involved in the formation of various enzymes.

Iron in hemoglobin

Food iron is mainly taken up as trivalent iron in the small intestine, whereby the functioning of the transport system is also dependent on the gastric acid and is easily disturbed by various factors (for example ingredients of tea and coffee, medicines, calcium). Daily, only a limited amount of iron of about five milligrams can be taken.

To keep losses as low as possible, iron in the blood is not released, but is bound to protein molecules, such as haptoglobin and ferritin. About 70% of the iron in the body (four to five grams in the adult) is in hemoglobin, the rest in the liver, spleen, intestinal mucosa and bone marrow. Natural losses are mainly due to the dandruff and the exfoliation of the cells on the gastrointestinal mucosa; in women, a not inconsiderable part is added by the loss of blood during menstruation.

Recommended daily dose of iron

The recommended daily intake of iron is ten milligrams for men and 15 milligrams for women (of childbearing age). This daily dose of iron is contained for example in

  • 100 g pork liver
  • 150 g of sesame
  • 200 g wheat germ
  • 200 g of pulses
  • 350 g of nuts
  • 350 g wholemeal flour
  • 400 g of spinach
  • 750 g of muscle meat

Iron in food

Iron is present in both plant and animal foods, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, cereals and meat. However, the body can better utilize the iron contained in animal products. The simultaneous intake of vitamin C (orange juice) can increase the iron absorption in the intestine. Calcium, phosphorus and substances in black tea and coffee worsen dietary iron intake.

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