This is a guest post by dietician, Ilanit Fananes.
An Easy Guide to Getting More Iron
Making sure we get enough iron in our diets isn’t always high on our list of priorities. Here is a quick explanation of everything you need to know about iron intake and how to easily incorporate more into your diet.
Why is iron so important? Iron is a component of hemoglobin – a protein which resides inside the red blood cells and carries oxygen to all the cells in the body. We need oxygen to live and so we need iron! Anaemia is classed as a low concentration of hemoglobin in the blood. Signs include feeling weak, tired, dizzy and looking pale. Symptoms won’t show right away…only when our reserves get low. Therefore we want to try to keep ourselves topped up.
Who is at risk?
-Women that menstruate or are pregnant and lose blood or are required to produce a lot more and so need larger reserves.
-Vegans and vegetarians are also at risk because they don’t eat meat – the best supplier of iron.
Diet plays a part in iron levels for everyone, although this isn’t the only factor. It is, however, something that we have control over and can change.
-It is well known that red meat is a very rich source of iron, and also well known that eating too much red meat is unhealthy for your heart. Treating yourself to a steak now and then is fine, but relying on red meat as a main source of iron is not a good idea!
-Other options such as turkey and fish are also high in iron but much healthier. Turkey can be easily added into a stir-fry or curry, and fish is great served simply with spinach and tomatoes.
-Vegetarians and vegans are able to receive all the iron that they need from non-meat sources. Legumes are a rich source (beans, lentils, pulses, peas).
-Nuts and seeds are great, although have high levels of fat and shouldn’t be consumed too much. Green leaves such as spinach, green cabbage and parsley are also high in iron. A great idea for vegetarians is to make a salad and mix greens with nuts and beans. Raw tahini is high in iron, low in fat, and great as a salad dressing.
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-Increase iron absorbency by ingesting vitamin C at the same time as the iron rich source! Simply add tomatoes or a splash of lemon or orange juice to your dish for a vitamin C boost.
-Ditch the caffeine! Tea, coffee, cocoa, cola….all disrupt the absorption of iron and so are best avoided.