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Iron: Building Blocks for Health

Iron is an essential mineral for the body’s growth and health. It helps maintain our blood healthy by being an essential component of haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that transport oxygen. Individuals with low iron levels may feel tired because there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen. Iron is also present in myoglobin, a protein that stores oxygen in muscles. It is essential for children’s cognitive development and promotes normal cell and hormone production. Inadequate iron consumption might lead to iron deficiency anaemia.


When individuals have low iron levels, they may encounter the symptoms listed below.

  • Fatigue 

  • Weakness 

  • Dizziness 

  • Shortness of breath

  • Poor memory

  • Poor concentration

These symptoms highlight the importance of maintaining adequate iron levels for overall health and well-being. 


Several factors contribute to low iron levels:

  • Inadequate iron-rich food

  • Increased iron requirements due to rapid growth

  • Being pregnant

  • Menstruating

  • Excess blood loss as a result of pathologic infections, including hookworm and whipworm that lead to gastrointestinal blood loss

  • Iron’s absorption is impaired 


Food contains two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is primarily derived from the haemoglobin and myoglobin found in flesh foods like meat, fish, and poultry. Plant foods containing non-heme iron include bread, cereals, dark leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and eggs. 

Heme iron:

Non-heme iron:

  • Spinach

  • Potato with skin

  • Lentils

  • Beans, Nuts, seeds

  • Fortified breakfast cereals

  • Enriched rice or bread

  • Dark chocolate (at least 45%)


In summary, understanding the significance of iron for our bodies’ well-being is critical. Iron is essential for both blood health and cognitive development. Recognising the symptoms and causes of low iron levels, such as fatigue and insufficient iron dietary intake, is key to preventing iron deficiency anaemia. Incorporating a variety of iron-rich foods, both heme and non-heme, can help to maintain optimal iron levels for overall health and vitality. Remember, a well-balanced diet is essential for a healthy and energetic life. 


A Report of the Technical Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition Ministry of Health Malaysia Putrajaya 2005 RNI Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia. (n.d.).

Abbaspour, N., Hurrell, R., & Kelishadi, R. (2014). Review on iron and its importance for human health. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 19(2), 164–174.

Harvard School of Public Health. (2019, September 16). Iron. Harvard School of Public Health.

National Institutes of Health. (2019, December 10). Office of Dietary Supplements - Iron. National Institutes of Health; National Institutes of Health.

World Health Organization. (2022). Anaemia.; World Health Organisation.



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