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What Are the Benefits of Iron in the Diet?

By Amy Pellegrini

Iron is an important mineral for health of the human body. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, iron is primarily present in red blood cells and is crucial to delivering oxygen to every other cell in the body. Iron is stored in the liver, bone marrow, spleen and muscles, and serves as an essential component of various processes that occur in the body. A number of dietary sources provide iron, and its deficiency may lead to various ailments.

Avoiding Anemia

One of the most important benefits of iron in the diet is its ability to prevent and protect against anemia, or the condition where the body does not have an adequate amount of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells are important in supplying body tissues with oxygen, and iron is a key component of hemoglobin, a protein in the blood that carries oxygen. The body primarily obtains iron through dietary sources and from red blood cells--inadequate levels of iron in the body prevents the blood from effectively carrying oxygen. The result of inadequate oxygen, iron and red blood cells in the body may ultimately lead to anemia, which may result in brittle nails, fatigue and weakness, various types of cancer or peptic ulcers.

Immune Strength

One of the leading problems of aging individuals is the weakening of the immune system. According to Robert W. Griffith, MD, older people with poor nutrition can suffer from iron deficiency which may ultimately lead to infections and diminished immune response. Iron in the diet is especially beneficial for the health of T-cells and the ability of white cells to consume bacteria.

Muscle Health

According to Maureen Williams, ND, from the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, iron in the diet may help to reduce fatigue after exercise. Since iron is an essential element of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to other cells of the body, it plays an important role in energy production and muscle function. Inadequate levels of iron in the body may hinder endurance, increase fatigue and cause the muscles to tire more quickly.

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