(NaturalNews) When people think of iron, they probably think about steel products that iron is used in, things like metal flag poles and construction beams. Sometimes they`ll think instead of wrought iron, often used ornamentally, such as in fences. Iron is also an important element of a person`s diet, and just as it makes strong constructed products, it helps a person remain strong and healthy.
Human bodies need iron to aid in the production of hemoglobin, a protein. Hemoglobin can be found in human red blood cells, and without it, oxygen isn`t properly transported throughout the body. Iron also assists in the function of cells and in proper brain functioning.
Knowing these facts, it`s not hard to see why iron is an important mineral in one`s diet. Obviously, a person can`t just sit down to eat a construction beam, but there are ways to ensure proper iron intake. Most often, when people think of iron, they think of meat sources (known as "heme iron"), but there are plenty of vegetarian, non-heme sources of this mineral as well. As long as a vegetarian ingests plenty of vitamin C, non-heme iron is readily absorbed in the body. Fortunately, vegetarians usually get their vitamin C at the same time they get their iron, so that`s not a problem.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iron for adult males and adult females over the age of 51 is 8 milligrams a day; women between the ages of 19 and 50 actually require a lot more (18 milligrams per day) and pregnant women require even more than that. However, with a good diet, it`s not hard to get all the iron necessary in one`s diet. Here are some good non-heme sources of iron:
Spinach: Ever wonder why Popeye was "strong to the finish"? Don`t knock this powerful green. Just one cup of cooked spinach has 6.4 milligrams of iron.
Legumes: Almost everyone probably has at least one bean or legume that she likes, even if she`s not a fan of them all. And that`s good when it comes to iron consumption. Just one cup of lentils has more than 6 milligrams of iron while lima beans have over 4.
Using a cast-iron skillet: The old wives` tale is true. Cooking in a cast-iron skillet increases the body`s absorption of this important metal.
Blackstrap molasses: This byproduct of sugar production contains a whopping 7.2 milligrams of iron in just two little tablespoons!
With a healthy, balanced diet, it`s not difficult to get enough iron, and knowing how important it is to the body is reason enough to make sure a person gets plenty of it.
Cindy Jones-Shoeman is the author of Last Sunset and a Feature Writer for Academic Writing at Suite101. Some of Cindy's interests include environmental issues, vegetarian and sustainable lifestyles, music, and reading.