Iron Deficiency - 10 Most Iron Rich Foods
One of the most common reasons people go to see the doctor is that they are always tired. The first thing a doctor will do is send you off for a blood test and check your iron levels. Sometimes fatigue, especially in women is a symptom of anaemia, not having enough iron in your blood. Without it, your body can’t carry enough oxygen, leaving you tired and short of breath.
Menstruating women are the most common demographic diagnosed with anaemia, due to monthly blood loss through their period. Some women can experience very heavy blood flow which can leave them feeling exhausted and unable to participate in daily activities. While it is recommended to take it easy for the first couple of days of your period, it should not be considered normal to be curled up in the foetal position for days on end unable to live your normal life.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF LOW IRON?
Left untreated, iron deficiency anaemia can make you more at risk of illness and infection because the lack of iron will affect your immune system, leaving you more prone to ongoing and repeated bouts of feeling unwell. You may experience other symptoms too like a fast heartbeat, pale skin, dizziness, cold hands and feet, a sore inflamed tongue and brittle nails.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED LOW IRON?
A severe low haemoglobin level for women is 12gm/dL, and many women are far lower than this which will explain their severe fatigue. Serrum ferritin concentration will typically correlate with total body iron stores. Degrees of depletion in women can vary because low iron stores in the liver may not be apparent but more likely to occur when iron stores are depleted in the skeletal muscle or other tissues.
HOW DO YOU FIX IRON DEFICIENCY?
It’s important to know that your body can’t make iron, so you need to get it from food. If you do not eat as much iron as your body uses each day, you may develop an iron deficiency.
Iron is classified in two forms in foods – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only found in animal products, whereas non-heme iron is only found in plants.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world and yet it can be so easily corrected by consuming some of the 10 most iron rich foods every day like;
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Red meat, chicken and fish
- Lentils, peas & beans
- Dark chocolate
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Organ meats
- Prunes, dried apricots & raisins
- Tofu & tempeh
- Pumpkin, sesame, hemp & flaxseeds
CAN I JUST TAKE AN IRON SUPPLEMENT?
Doctors will often prescribe an iron supplement like ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate and ferrous fumarate. You will also be advised to take a vitamin C supplement alongside for better absorption. However, these commonly used iron supplements may cause unwanted side effects such as constipation, vomiting and nausea. This can attribute to why women stop taking their iron supplements and the deficiency continues.
The best and most absorbable form of iron is from your diet, so making sure you consume a whole food diet will ensure good iron stores as well as providing all the nutrients your body needs for a strong functioning immune system.
This can be as simple as having a daily vegetable juice, meat and three veg for dinner or by blending a spoon of molasses in a glass of water for a tasty drink. Not a bad way for the medicine to go down!
Written by Mona Hecke
Mona Hecke is a degree qualified Naturopath, nutrition specialist and health and wellness writer.
With over 20 years in the health industry, beginning with a focus on children and families, and a bestselling book ‘The Lunchbox Revolution’, Mona is now empowering women through education and conversation to take action and embrace change. Gut health, mindfulness, nutrition, hormones, and menopause are the topics that women want and need to know to create their healthy future.
Mona holds certifications in Lifestyle Coaching, Kinesiology, holistic herbal medicine, and nutrition.
A recognised leader in the health industry, Mona’s strong social media presence and passion for influencing change will continue to be a catalyst for health reform for the benefit of every Australian.