Brought to you by Australian Good Health magazine
It's vital to iron out a deficiency of this essential mineral, writes Pip Harry.
Is it time you pumped more iron into your diet? Iron is an essential trace element that is used in the body in many different ways. Too little iron can lead to low energy and other problems.
"If we lack iron, less oxygen is supplied to our body, which can make it harder to concentrate, remember and learn, and may cause tiredness and irritability," says Megan Alsford, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
Iron deficiency is very common. High-risk groups include pregnant women, women with heavy periods, athletes, infants and adolescents. Commonly, the causes for iron deficiency are
- inadequate dietary intake (including yoyo dieting, a lack of access to fresh foods, or an unbalanced or vegetarian diet);
- blood loss (through monthly menstrual loss and other conditions such as peptic ulcers or cancers of the large intestine);
- increased need (in pregnancy or adolescence); and
- depletion through hard training (iron is lost through sweating). In rare cases, some people have an inability to absorb iron.
Not all iron is created equal
"It's important to know that not all iron is created equal. Iron comes in
two forms called haem and non-haem," says Alsford. "Haem iron is well absorbed by the body and is found in animal sources. On the other hand, non-haem iron is less well absorbed by the body and is found in foods such as iron-fortified breakfast cereals, dark-green leafy vegetables, wholemeal pasta and bread, legumes, eggs and nuts.
"If you need an iron boost, you're better off reaching for haem iron. "For example, 20 percent of the iron in a rump steak is absorbed by the body, while only five per cent of the iron from spinach is absorbed," explains Alsford.
Iron-fortified breakfast cereal topped with berries; a glass
of orange juice; decaffeinated herbal tea.
Tuna sandwich on wholemeal bread with chopped tomato and capsicum; or a Thai beef salad with cucumber, snow peas and carrot and a squeeze of lime juice; grapefruit.
Roast beef with mixed vegetables (including broccoli and cauliflower) or a lentil burger with a mixed vegetable salad; and chopped kiwifruit and strawberry salad for dessert.
How much do I need?
The RDI (recommended
daily intake) for women aged 19 to 50 is 18mg; for pregnant women,
27mg, and for women aged 51 and over, 8mg.
For the full story, see the May issue of Australian Good Health. Get a great subscription deal on New Zealand Good Health magazine at magshop.co.nz.