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Iron and your diet

The importance of Iron

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the mysterious mineral and what it does in the body.


We need iron for so many different reasons, but one of the most important is the production of haemoglobin.


What’s that? I hear you ask.
Haemoglobin is a fundamental protein that we use to transport oxygen in our blood cells around the body, and iron plays a key role in that process. 
We also need iron from our diet to use as building blocks for a variety of important functions in our body, including supporting our immune system and nervous system, and making DNA, the blueprint of our cells. In addition, iron is essential for neurological functions including memory, learning and behaviour.

Low iron levels can have a serious impact on your health and wellbeing, and low intake or poor absorption is a major public health issue. 


Our bodies don’t produce iron, we get it from what we eat and drink - so we need to make sure we’re consuming enough iron-rich foods in order to maintain healthy levels.


There are two main categories of iron. 


One is haem-iron, which is the iron that you find in things like meat, fish, poultry, and seafood. This type is much more easily absorbed by our body and is the form that we need to make haemoglobin, the protein which transports oxygen around our body.



The other iron form is non-haem iron which is present in plant-based foods like beans, lentils, spinach and dark chocolate. This type is less well absorbed by our bodies but is still an important source of iron that our bodies can use and convert. Because it is not so well absorbed, however, we need to consume much higher quantities of it.


Lots of nuts and seeds are also really rich in minerals such as iron.


One thing which increases how much iron is absorbed from our food is having vitamin C alongside iron rich meals, so having a little bit of lemon juice on your spinach or kale salad or having a small glass of orange juice with your food or supplement is going to boost iron absorption. A lot of vegetarian foods like bread, rice and breakfast cereal have added iron, but non-haem iron isn’t absorbed or utilised as well by the body – so it’s important to be mindful of this.