Are you getting enough iron?
Iron-deficiency can leave you tired, pale-looking and irritable. An increasing number of Australians are finding they are iron deficient. Could this be you? This article fills you in about iron deficiency & what to do about it.
The figures for Iron Deficiency Anaemia may be as high as 1 in 4 Australian women & 1 in 6 Australian men. The condition is widespread and underdiagnosed.
Some groups of Australians are more at risk of iron deficiency than others. These groups include young children, pregnant & premenopausal women, some athletes and vegetarians.
Why do we need iron?
Iron helps your body make red blood cells by binding to a protein called haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the pigment that makes blood red and carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. The oxygen is used to burn carbohydrates and fats to release energy. Adequate iron not only ensures good energy levels, but also optimal brain function and a strong immune system.
The first signs of anaemia are tiredness, lack of energy, poor concentration & frequent infections. Other symptoms may include brittle flat nails, smooth tongue & cracks at the corners of the mouth.
How to eat to get the extra iron you need:
Including iron containing foods can prevent the development of iron deficiency anaemia.
The two main forms of iron are haem (found in meats) and non-haem (found in plant foods). Our body is able to absorb haem iron more readily than non-haem iron – 20% absorption compared with 5%. Vitamin C and animal proteins help to release the non-haem iron bound in plant foods.
Iron food sources include beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, seafood, fish & offal meats. Dried peas & legumes, nuts, fortified breakfast cereals, wholegrain breads & cereals, eggs & green leafy vegetables are also good sources.
Some foods can interfere with iron absorption & should be eaten at different times to iron containing foods. These foods include large amounts of unprocessed bran & strongly brewed tea.
An iron supplement may be needed when levels in the blood go too low. Speak to your doctor if you think you may have iron deficiency.
If you think your diet may be low in iron, our lovely dietitian Cathy Purcell can provide you with individual advice for an adequate iron intake tailored to your circumstances.