Are you getting enough iron?

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It may come as a surprise that despite having large volumes of nutrition information readily available, as well as plenty of food, many Australian women still have low iron levels. In fact, as many as one in four women may be experiencing the symptoms of iron deficiency, including extreme fatigue, irritability and low energy and mood on a daily basis. The most ironic fact of all when it comes to iron deficient may be that it is often not those who do not eat red meat who are most likely to have low stores of iron. Rather, sporadic meat eaters who enjoy iron rich beef or lamb just once or twice each week are far more likely to deplete their iron stores over time and suffer the effects of low iron.

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Iron is used in the body to transport oxygen to the cells. The body; being the highly functioning machine that it is, stores a certain amount of iron to ensure that some is available when dietary intake is low. If dietary intake is chronically low, over time these stores will become depleted. If the iron stores in the body have been depleted to such an extent that there is not enough to allow oxygen to be transported, full iron deficiency anemia results. Research has indicates that individuals will feel physical effects of low iron, even if their blood levels are normal but their stores are low.

Iron is present in a wide number of foods including both red meat, chicken fish, whole grains and leafy green vegetables but the amounts of iron absorbed varies widely between foods. Non-haem iron found in plant foods is not particularly well absorbed compared to haem iron, found in lean red meat. For individuals who do not regularly any type of meat, chicken or fish, their body will be much more used to absorbing iron from plant based foods such as grain bread and fortified breakfast cereal. Meat eaters though need to make a concerted effort to expose their body to well absorbed forms of iron, even in relatively small quantities at least 3-4 times each week to ensure that they give their body’s the opportunity to absorbed the iron they need of optimal energy production.

Looking for iron rich recipe ideas? Try my free Shape Me recipes here.

Iron in food / mg iron

200g steak / 7.0

1 cup mince / 5

1 chicken breast / 2.0

Fish fillet / 1

1/2 cup baked beans / 2.2

Slice grain bread / 1

Breakfast cereal with iron / 3

6 oysters / 3.5

1/2 cup Spinach / 0.6

Daily iron requirements / mg/day

Babies (7-12 months) / 11

1-3 years / 9

4-8 years / 10

9-13 years / 8

14-18 years boys / 11

14-18 years girls / 15

>18 years males / 8

18-50 year female / 18

>50 year female / 8

Pregnancy / 27

Breastfeeding / 9

Iron in food / mg | Zinc in food / mg                          

200g steak / 7.0 | Almonds (25) / 1.0

1 cup mince / 5 | 1 cup baked beans / 1.4

1 chicken breast / 2.0 |  100g lean beef / 5.3

Fish fillet / 1 | 100g chicken / 1.2

1/2 cup baked beans / 2.2 | 1 cup muesli / 2.1

Slice grain bread / 1 | 1 cup brown rice / 1.6

Breakfast cereal with iron / 3 | 30g pumpkin seeds / 1.9

6 oysters / 3.5 | Can of tuna / 0.9

1/2 cup Spinach / 0.6 | 6 oysters / 59