The importance of iron

Red meat is an excellent source of iron in the diet.

Iron is needed in the body for the formation of the red colouring matter, called haemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells. This substance is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to every cell of the body where it is used to provide energy.

Iron is also found in muscles as the red myoglobin, which again holds oxygen. Iron is also required in enzyme systems needed in energy production throughout the body.

Lack of iron can lead to a condition called iron deficiency anaemia, which causes symptoms of tiredness, lethargy and the associated feeling of depression, lack of get-up-and-go, paleness and poor wound healing.

Groups that are particularly prone to iron deficiency anaemia include:

? Women of childbearing age, due to the monthly blood loss. Those women who have heavy periods are particularly prone to this problem

? Toddlers who are often not given adequate iron in their diet

? Teenage girls who have started to have monthly periods, but do not eat a balanced diet

? Women who are pregnant due to the demands of the growing baby for iron

? Elderly people, as their diet may be low in iron and as they are not able to absorb iron as well as younger people do

? Those who have disorders of the digestive tract, which may affect the absorption of iron, such as ulcerative colitis

? Anyone who does not eat red meat and does not carefully balance his or her diet.

So, overall, iron has a role in the energy balance, which keeps us alive and red meat provides an important source of this nutrient.

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