Iron is the most plentiful mineral in the body. 70% of the mineral resides in the red blood cells, which give them their red color and the hemoglobin carries the oxygen in the blood to all parts of the body.
Myoglobin is another oxygen-binding protein, mostly found in skeletal muscle and the heart. It's job is to trap oxygen within muscle cells for use in the metabolic processes that generate energy for muscle contraction.
Other roles of iron are in the synthesis of DNA, the basic building block of all cells in the body. Iron is also a component of neurotransmitters, the substances used by brain cells to communicate with each other. Iron is part of the production process of connective tissue, the cells, and fibrous tissue that forms the "cellular glue" of the body. Iron is also important in the health of the body's immune system.
Iron is most easily absorbed from animal foods like meat, eggs and dairy products. There are plant foods that contain iron, but this iron is more difficult to absorb. For this reason, the absorption of iron from plant foods can be increased by consuming the plant foods with Vitamin C or a food containing Vitamin C. Broccoli is a good choice because it is high in both iron and Vitamin C. Other plant foods that contain iron are leafy greens such as spinach and kale, oatmeal, asparagus, purple grapes, plums, almonds, cashews, black beans, kidney beans. Almost any nut or bean contains at least some iron.
Caffeine, calcium and fiber make it difficult to absorb iron, so it is a good idea to NOT eat high iron foods with high calcium or high fiber foods.
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