Facts about Iron

Jamie Vallone, RD, CDN

What is iron?

Iron is an essential mineral, meaning that the body does not create it on its own. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body, including your muscles. Iron also contributes to healthy function of your immune system, as well as maintenance of healthy nail and skin cells.

What is iron deficiency?

Iron deficiency occurs when the body does not have enough iron. This can cause a decrease in the production of red blood cells, causing a condition known as iron deficiency anemia. This condition is typically diagnosed by your doctor with a blood test.

Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:

  • Low energy levels/fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pale skin and fingernails
  • Decreased appetite

(Consult with your doctor if you are concerned you may be iron deficient.)

Food Sources with Iron

Iron can be found in a variety of foods including lean red meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, beans and peas, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and iron fortified cereals.

Plant based sources of iron are not absorbed as much by the body as animal sources of iron are, however eating good sources of vitamin C such as oranges and bell peppers can help your body absorb more iron from plants.