What Does Iron Do for the Body?

Iron plays a big role in creating energy from nutrients. Many people ask, "What does iron do for the body?" Iron helps transmit nerve impulses that direct your body parts to move coordinately. It is important to provide your body with an adequate amount of iron or else you will develop several health problems, like iron deficiency. Keep reading to find more details about iron functions and how to balance iron intake.

What Does Iron Do for the Body?

Iron is an essential mineral that facilitates the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Red blood cells get their color for the substance called hemoglobin, and iron is an important component of that substance. Therefore, iron is important for healthy blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs and supply it to the rest of your body.

About two-thirds of your body's iron is used in hemoglobin, so inadequate amount of iron will keep your body from making enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This may lead to a condition called iron deficiency anemia, which can affect your immune system's ability to fight infections. Iron deficiency in pregnant women can increase the risk of giving birth to premature baby.

Not enough healthy red blood cells lead to insufficient oxygen, making you feel tired. Such exhaustion will further affect everything from your immune system to brain function.In addition, iron is also important for healthy skin, cells, nails, and hair. Many enzymes in your body contain iron – these enzymes facilitate chemical reactions.

How Much Iron Do You Need?

Once you know the answer to your question, "what does iron do for the body?" you would want to know how much iron you should consume daily. Your recommended dietary intake (RDI) changes with your age and sex. Here is a reference chart for you.







14 to 18



19 to 50



Above 51






It is important to note that athletes may need more iron due to high iron losses. Male athletes should consume at least 17.5mg/day and female distance runners should take about 23mg of iron per day.

Do You Have Iron Deficiency or Iron Overdose?

Low doses: What does iron do for the body? With answer given above, it is important to recognize if you have iron deficiency. Possible symptoms can include tiredness, weakness, decreased work performance. Children may specifically experience slow cognitive development, poor performance at school, and higher susceptibility to infections due to decreased immune function. An inflamed tongue is also common in people with severe iron deficiency.

High doses: Also, you need to keep an eye on your iron intake, especially if you are taking iron supplements. High doses can cause harmful effects, including gastrointestinal effects, such as vomiting, nauseaand diarrhea. It can affect your nervous system, cardiovascular system, liver and the kidneys as well. For children, you need to administer iron supplements under the doctor's supervision.

Remember, people with certain conditions may want to avoid taking iron supplements, including chronic alcoholism, iron-loading abnormalities, liver disease, and certain genetic disorders. People with hereditary hemochromatosis should also avoid consuming too much of iron.

How to Balance Your Iron Levels

Once you know the answer to your question, "what does iron do for the body?"and symptoms of iron deficiency and iron overdoes, you need to understand how to balance your iron intake. Taking iron with other nutrients like vitamin C help your body better absorb iron. Similarly, eating animal protein will also help boost iron absorption, especially if you are getting iron from plant sources.

At the same time, it is important to understand that certain foods and drinks can also affect the absorption of iron. For instance, eating soy protein will make it difficult for your body to absorb plant-based iron; tannins from coffee, tea, and wine negatively affect iron absorption because they bind with the iron and take them out of your body. Other dietary sources that can reduce absorption of iron include fibers and phytates in whole grains, and diet containing food rich in phosphorus and calcium.

Common Sources of Iron

Knowing some common sources of iron helps to increase your iron intake. You can get it from different sources. For instance, you can get it from meat and poultry through pork, veal, lean beef, turkey, lamb, liver, and chicken.

Fish, shellfishand mussels are great choices if you want to get it from seafood. You can also include vegetables in your diet to increase your iron intake. The list includes kale, Brussels sprouts, tofu, sweet peas, lima beans, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, corn, cabbage, and greens of all kinds.

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