– By Camille Pruitt
Iron is not only a building block of our planet but it is also an essential mineral for the human body, a vital building block necessary to ensure we stay fit and healthy.
Iron is important as it is needed in our red blood cells to help carry oxygen to our tissues for repair, and also to our working muscles.
Your brain also needs Iron. Some would say this is the most important muscle in your body! Iron is used to help carry oxygen to the brain and without it you will find your cognitive function is significantly impaired.
Without sufficient iron in our diets we can find ourselves feeling fatigued, mentally foggy, weak, along with having a lowered immune response and also an inability to maintain our body temperature. This can wreak havoc on your day to day life not to mention your health and wellbeing.
If you are working out regularly then making sure you have enough iron is even more important to ensure your muscles can recover and repair themselves after exercise. Pregnant and lactating mothers are also in need of extra iron due to the additional load on the body whilst providing nutrition for their young.
How much Iron do I need?
It is recommended that for healthy children and adults you should get all the iron you need from your diet. Some demographics may need supplementation such as pregnant mothers. Here are the Recommended Daily Intakes* (RDI)
Iron Rich Foods
There are 2 types of Iron:
Haem Iron – Easily absorbed and only found in animal sources such as meat, chicken and fish. Foods high in Haem Iron include:
- Lean meats – beef, pork, lamb
- Poultry – chicken and turkey (dark meat has more than light meat)
- Fish and shellfish – tuna, salmon, oysters, clams, shrimp, etc.
Non-Haem Iron – Not as easily absorbed by the body, found in plants, cereals, beans, lentils. Foods high in Non-Haem Iron include:
- Beans and legumes – kidney, black, soy, pinto, navy, garbanzo, lentils
- Tofu and soy-based meat alternatives like veggie burgers, tempeh
- Greens – spinach, kale; mustard, collard and turnip greens
- Vegetables – broccoli, asparagus, parsley, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, peas
- Dried fruits – raisins, dates, prunes, apricots
- Iron-fortified whole grains – cereals, breads, tortillas, rice, pasta
- Other- Blackstrap molasses, egg yolks, nuts
To assist in the absorption of iron from these foods it is beneficial to consume them alongside Vitamin C rich foods such as Kiwifruit, Cranberries, Citrus.