Updated: Jan 29
The human body needs a total of 102 trace minerals (metals) to run at its full potential and 4% of our bodies are made up of these minerals alone. Some minerals are needed more than others, some are only needed microscopic amounts, but they all serve a particular purpose and our body relies on them to maintain optimal health. Mineral deficiencies have an adverse effect on our health and lead to a multitude of side effects, symptoms and diseases. The importance of maintaining consistent levels of these minerals is very rarely mentioned in allopathic or orthodox medicine, but the truth is that most of the common illnesses are totally avoidable through diet alone.
Iron (Fe) is one of the most important trace minerals in our diet. It is essential for the functionality of haemoglobin, the protein inside red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen around the body. Most of the iron we consume resides in our red blood cells. A deficiency in iron can lead to numerous health problems and illnesses including, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, dizziness and restless leg syndrome. Although iron deficiency is extremely common, all of these conditions can be easily avoided by consuming food with high amounts of iron. The daily value of iron intake of 18mg, and deficiency will arise if the iron cannot be restored quick enough. The most common way this can occur is after exercise. Active people will loose large amounts of iron so will need to replenish quicker, statistics show that women are more likely to suffer than males. Large amounts of iron can be lost during the menstrual cycle, and pregnant women especially should pay attention to their iron levels, as an increase as much as 50% could be required. Vitamin C is needed to help the body absorb iron into the bloodstream.
Foods rich in Iron include:
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
- Hemp Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Swish Chard
- Palm Hearts
- Coconut Milk
- Burdock Root
So let's explore some of the health benefits of Iron.
1. Encourages Muscle Growth
Athletes are the most common sufferers of anaemia, usually due to the lack of mineral replenishment after vigorous exercise. The body stores approximately 3-5 grams of iron at a time and most of it is used in the blood in a compound called 'heme'. Heme is essential in transferring energy and the body including the muscles. It's transferred to the muscles via myoglobin, a protein that helps your muscle cells match the supply of oxygen required by muscles that are working and under stress. If the body is depleted in iron, this process will slow down and not allow the maximum potential of muscle growth or repair.
2. Improves Sleep
If the body does not store enough iron, an amino acid known as 'tryptophan' cannot be produced. A study published by Scientific Report in 2019 showed that tryptophan is needed to produce the melatonin and serotonin hormones. "Serotonin influences your mood, cognition and behaviour, while melatonin influences your sleep-wake cycle." So a depletion of iron can directly effect the hormones necessary for a good night's sleep.
Anaemia can also bring on a very annoying health issue known as 'restless leg syndrome'. Restless leg syndrome is a big contributor in people that suffer with insomnia. As the body cannot fully relax, even once asleep, this condition often disrupts sleeping patterns and interrupts a peaceful night's rest and recovery.
3. Improves Circulation
Iron is the crucial mineral needed for production of haemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen around the body via the red blood cells. About 70% of the body's iron is stored here, so this is its primary function. Haemoglobin is essential in the transfer of oxygen from the lungs into the tissues, whereas the myoglobin then helps to transfer this energy to the muscles. Of course, without the right amount of oxygen transported efficiently around the body, the circulatory system is strained and the body will suffer as a result.
4. Fights Fatigue
One of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency is fatigue. Fatigue leaves the body feeling lethargic, heavy and slow. This is due to the lack of red blood cells in the body. Without these, as we mentioned above, oxygen cannot be properly transported around the body. Often sufferers of chronic fatigue quickly show others side effects such as sleeping problems, loss of appetite, lack of motivation and inability to concentrate. Fatigue is usually a direct effect of diet and lifestyle but is the first tell tale sign of anaemia.
5. Boosts Immune System
Iron plays an important part in keeping up the body's natural defence system. When left depleted, all of the factors already mentioned all contribute to not being able to fight off common illnesses such as colds and flu. A tired and fatigued body with insufficient red blood cells is not equipped to defend itself, which is why anaemia sufferers often find themselves under the weather.