A constituent of haemoglobin, iron is a principal trace element.
Source ? Iron is very common in food. However, its assimilation is low depending on the type of food consumed. Red meat, offal and fish are the most iron-rich food, with the iron in its most bioavailable form (20-30%). There are other sources of iron, although with these sources much less of the iron is assimilated (only 1-5%). These sources include leguminous vegetables, whole cereals, eggs and dairy products.
What does it do ? Iron contributes to the normal function of red cells and haemoglobin, a molecule essential for transporting oxygen through the body.
It is essential for immune system function and also helps reduce fatigue.
For whom ? Iron requirements are greater during growth, for sporting people (iron can be lost through sweating), and for women going through pregnancy, breast-feeding and menstruation.
Recommended iron intake has been fixed so as to ensure suitable reserves. It has been estimated at 9 mg daily for men and 16 mg daily for non-menopausal women. The intake varies between 7 and 14 mg daily in children between 3 and 17.
The reference intake for labelling of food products has been set at 14 mg daily.