What Does Iron Do for Your Body
Just as iron is essential in the production of steel, it is also essential to human life. About 70% of the iron in your body can be found in a protein in red blood cells called hemoglobin. Iron is essential in making hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. These red blood cells help carry oxygen throughout your body. Six percent of iron can also be found in other essential proteins and another 25% is stored in your body in a blood protein called ferritin. Iron is also vital for a fully functioning immune system. If your iron levels are too high or too low, they can cause serious health problems.
What Is Ferritin?
Ferritin is a protein in the body that stores iron and releases it when needed. A ferritin test can determine how much iron your body has stored. On average, adult males have about 1,000 mg of stored iron (enough for about three years), and adult women have about 300 mg (enough for about six months). When iron intake is chronically low, these stores can become depleted, resulting in lower-than-normal ferritin levels and decreased hemoglobin.
What If Your Iron Is Low
Iron is not made in the body and must be absorbed from what you eat, so try eating foods that are rich in iron if your iron levels are low. There are two types of iron in foods: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in red meat, poultry and pork and is most easily absorbed by your body. Non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed by your body but is still a good source of iron and essential if you don’t eat meat. Foods that are high in this type of iron include greens, breakfast cereals fortified by iron, breads and pasta, tofu, beans, dried fruits and eggs.
What Are the Best Foods to Eat
When you combine foods that contain each type of iron, the iron will be more completely absorbed by your body. Eating foods that are high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits and bell peppers, can also help with the absorption of iron.