Are you low in iron and want to know the best food sources? First of all, what is iron and why is it important?
It helps to transport oxygen around the body, and as our cells and tissues all require oxygen, iron is essential for life.
It is also important for producing energy, as iron is used in the Citric Acid Cycle which releases stored energy from proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
It is also necessary for optimal immune function, enzyme production, growth and storing oxygen in our muscles (this is what gives muscles their red colour!).
Symptoms of iron deficiency
- Lack of concentration
- Learning issues
- Increased risk of infection
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Brittle nails
- Fast heartbeat
- Low stomach acid
- Menstrual irregularities
- Strange cravings for ice or dirt, known as pica
- Cold hands and feet
- Tingling or a crawling-feeling in the legs
Rich Food Sources of Iron;
Red meat is the best known source of iron, but it’s not the only source. Iron from animal sources is known as heme and plant based iron sources are known as non-heme
- All meat, such as lamb, pork, chicken, and beef
- Fish and seafood, such as; salmon, sardines, prawns and oysters
- Pulses and beans, such as; lentils and soybeans (see note below about iron absorption and pulses)
- Seeds including; sunflowers and pepitas
- Nuts such as; almonds
- Dark leafy greens, such as parsley, spinach, kale and watercress
- Dried fruits such as apricots and raisins
- Grains such as rice ((see note below about iron absorption and grains)
Vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron you eat. Foods high in vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges, mandarines, lemons, limes and grapefruit,
- Other fruits such as; strawberries, kiwis, guava, papaya, pineapple, melons, and mangoes
- Red and green capsicum
- Dark leafy greens
Vegetarians and vegans should make sure they’re eating enough beans, tofu, dried fruits, spinach, and other dark vegetables.
Vegetarians may need nearly twice as much iron on a daily basis as people who eat animal products. This is because iron from plant foods may not be absorbed as easily or completely as iron found in animal products, such as meat.
Cooking your food in iron rich pans, particularly acid based foods such as tomato sauces, can be a good source of iron!!
- Calcium, especially in the form of dairy, at the same time as taking an iron supplement or eating a meal rich in iron, as it competes for absorption with iron. Have calcium rich foods or supplements at other times of the day
- Zinc, copper, manganese and possibly magnesium, take these as supplements and food sources at separate times.
- Tea or coffee as the tannic acid in tea and coffee reduce absorption.
- Peppermint and chamomile
- Phytic acid found in grains, pulses and other plant foods can reduce absorption by up to 80%, but having vitamin C at the same time counteracts that effect.
Don’t take iron when there’s an infection present as bacteria need iron for growth. The body will hide iron in the liver and other storage areas to starve the bacteria, so supllemening at this time only feeds the bacteria.
Image courtesy of yodiyim at FreeDigitalPhotos.net