Your body requires iron for many important functions. One of its most important is transporting oxy...
Read the full transcript »
Your body requires iron for many important functions. One of its most important is transporting oxygen. Iron is the connector between oxygen and red blood cells, which carry it from your lungs to the rest of your body. Foods provide two forms of iron. One form, called heme iron, comes from animal sources like red meat, poultry, and fish. The other, non-heme iron, comes from vegetables and grains. These two forms have different structures and are absorbed in different ways. Before it can be dissolved and absorbed in the small intestine, non-heme iron must be converted to a soluble form and bound to another substance. Heme iron does not need to be converted and bound to another protein. It is absorbed in different receptor sites from non-heme iron. Most of the iron in your body is stored in your liver, spleen, and bone marrow and released as needed. Excess iron is stored in your liver and heart. Too much can damage these organs. Insufficient iron can make you feel tired, weak, or irritable, more prone to infections, and other problems. Only a medical professional can determine if you have too little iron, what's causing it, and what to do about it. Some people are advised to take iron supplements. In the past, these were available only as non-heme iron. Due to the absorption process, non-heme iron can cause unpleasant effects, such as constipation. New supplements contain both heme and non-heme iron, which increases absorption and also reduce these unwanted effects.