Iron is an essential mineral nutrient and is necessary for the production of various enzymes, hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin, used for carring oxygen from the lungs to cells, is formed by combining with misc and copper. It is also used by the liver, required for immune activity, and supplying oxygen to cells. Vitamin C also helps enhance iron absorption and cooking foods in iron cookware can dramatically increase the content. Women lose twice as much iron as men, especially during the childbearing years and as a result, are more likely to be deficient. Drinking coffee within an hour of a meal can reduce iron absorption rates by up to 80%.
Plant sources of iron include enrich grains and cereals, chickpeas, lentils, green seaweed, cocoa powder, and beans. Animal sources include liver, kidney, raw clams, shellfish, red meat, egg yolks, fish, mussels, and oysters.
Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, growth problems, and reduced bone density. Other symptoms include breathlessness, tiredness, listlessness, fatigue, irritability, lowered resistance to infection, and decreased learning capacity.