Category: Natural chemicals
Introduction and description
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe (from Latin: ferrum) . It is a metal and by mass the most common element on Earth, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. According to Wikipedia “Fresh iron surfaces appear lustrous silvery-gray, but oxidize in normal air to give hydrated iron oxides, commonly known as rust”. My brother used to tell me that is why he went brown on holiday even in the rain – he was an ironman.
Iron is not one of the key minerals used by the nervous system, but it still has an important part to play in our bodies. It forms “complexes with molecular oxygen in hemoglobin and myoglobin; which are oxygen transport proteins”. Iron is also “used at the active site of many important redox enzymes dealing with cellular respiration and oxidation and reduction in plants and animals”.
The most commonly known compounds of iron are the heme proteins: examples are hemoglobin, myoglobin, and cytochrome P450. The colour of blood is due to the hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein. These compounds can transport gases, build enzymes, and be used in transferring electrons. Metalloproteins are a group of proteins with metal ion cofactors. Some examples of iron metalloproteins are ferritin and rubredoxin. Many enzymes vital to life contain iron, such as catalase, lipoxygenases, and IRE-BP.
After uptake, in cells, iron storage is carefully regulated; "free" iron ions do not exist as such. A major component of this regulation is the protein transferrin, which binds iron ions absorbed from the duodenum and carries it in the blood to cells.
Illnesses and diseases
There is a commonly held view that somehow or other we suffer from a lack of iron. If we are tired or weak or weary, the assumption is that it is iron that is the problem, but it rarely is.
Iron uptake is tightly regulated by the human body, which has no regulated physiological means of excreting iron. Only small amounts of iron are lost daily due to mucosal and skin epithelial cell sloughing, so control of iron levels is mostly by regulating uptake. It is thus very difficult to suffer from iron deficiency. The biggest problems in the western world appears to be iron overload
More details of the illnesses and diseases can be found in the section Iron imbalance.
Foods containing iron
Iron is pervasive, but particularly rich sources of dietary iron according to the USDA Nutrients database include
- Herbs – thyme, basil, mint, marjoram, parsley, dill, bay leaf, coriander, savoury, oregano, chervil, rosemary, sage,
- Spices – Cumin, Turmeric, Anise, Fenugreek, Paprika, Ginger, Cardamon, Cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice
- Seeds – celery seed, sesame, fennel, dill, coriander, caraway, poppy, mustard, pumpkin, sunflower, flax
- Offal – spleen, liver, kidneys, heart, liver pate
- Beans – soy, white, kidney, lima, broad, chickpea, black, adzuki, lentils
- Mushrooms – morel
- Fish – caviar, oysters, mussels, octopus, whelk, anchovies
- Red peppers
- Potatoes – baked with skin on
- Nuts – cashew, pine, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachio
- Worcester sauce
- Dried fruit
You will notice that there are no grains in this list, but there appears to be support for the theory that malted sprouted grains contain more minerals and vitamins than just grains, as such drinks containing malted products [ovaltine, beer, whisky etc] may also be a source of iron. It is noticeable that home brewed beer in Africa is a very rich source of iron
Germination of cereal grains as a way to improve the nutritional value: a review Hübner F, Arendt EK. Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Western Road, Cork, Ireland.
Whole grain cereals have been found to be a good source of nutritionally valuable substances, such as antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and dietary fiber. A wide range of these compounds is affected by germination. While some compounds, such as beta-glucans are degraded, others, like vitamins can be increased by means of malting. Therefore, germination and malting of cereals is a way not only to produce fermentable extract for the brewing and distilling industries, but can also be a way to produce ingredients enriched with health promoting compounds. Malt extracts have also been shown to be good substrates for the growth and application of probiotic bacteria.
- Adzuki beans Nutrient content from USDA 006997
- Broad bean Nutrients from USDA 006996
- Broccoli Nutrients from USDA database 007164
- Brussel sprouts Nutrients 007162
- Cabbage nutrients from USDA database 007160
- Cauliflower Nutrients from USDA database 007161
- Chickpea Nutrient content from USDA 006992
- Dairy products vitamins and mineral 005906
- Dietary Strategies for the Treatment of Cadmium and Lead Toxicity - 02 Essential metals 016836
- Dr Duke's list of chemicals and activity for the Shallot 017969
- Dr Duke's List of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Cola acuminata (P. BEAUV.) SCHOTT & ENDL. (Sterculiaceae) -- Abata Cola 027647
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Morus alba L. (Moraceae) -- Sang-Pai-Pi, White Mulberry 027433
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Prunella vulgaris L. (Lamiaceae) -- Heal-All, Self-Heal 018270
- Dr Duke’s list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Cucurbita pepo L. (Cucurbitaceae) -- Zucchini 027494
- Fish shellfish and minerals 005486
- High iron content and bioavailability in humans from four species of marine algae 016982
- Kale Nutrient value from USDA 007035
- Kohlrabi Nutrients from USDA database 007163
- Lentils Nutrient content from USDA 006995
- Meat, offal, heavy metals and minerals 005485
- Ovaltine original nutrient content 007180
- Parkinson's disease and manganese poisoning 006197
- Peas Nutrients according to USDA 006994
- Red meat risks and benefits 006736
- Root vegetables and affordable nutrition 005537
- Sacred Lotus rhizome a summary of properties 010391
- Sacred Lotus seeds - a summary of effects 010393
- USDA Nutrients - Fish, anchovy, european, raw 012452
- USDA Nutrients - Fish, Cod 012455
- USDA Nutrients - Fish, Herring 012459
- USDA Nutrients - Fish, Mackerel 012472
- USDA Nutrients - Fish, Oysters 012458
- USDA Nutrients - Fish, Salmon 012487
- USDA Nutrients - Fish, Sardines 012453
- USDA Nutrients - Fish, Scallops 012457
- White beans Nutrients from USDA 006998