It’s Winter, and a time when in my book, the nutrients we consume to help bolster us through the long, dark and energy-depleted months become even more vital in the ongoing crazy world that is motherhood (and generally being a human!). With that in mind, today we’re going to be shining the light on iron, how you ensure you’re meeting your body’s iron needs, and what it can do to help you get through the long road to Spring.
What is iron?
Iron is a crucial nutrient that should be incorporated into our daily diet for proper growth and development. It also contributes to the transportation of oxygen around our bodies, as well as supporting our immune system, muscle functions and producing that much needed energy we need to get on with our day-to-day lives.
How much iron do we need?
The recommended daily amount of iron we should be consuming is 8.7mg each day for men and 14.8mg each day for women. This is particularly important for women, as we can lose a lot of iron when we menstruate. Failing to keep on top of your iron levels can cause anaemia, which in turn can lead you to feel tired, breathless and generally just not feeling your best – nobody wants that when looking after an energetic family.
What form does iron come in?
Iron comes in two forms – haem iron, which can be found in animal food products, and non-haem iron which comes from plant based food. Our bodies find it more difficult to absorb non-haem iron, so a mixture of the two is beneficial.
Getting enough iron
The key to keeping on top of your iron intake is to ensure that you are enjoying a well-balanced diet, with plenty of variety in your food. That way, you can benefit from a range of vitamins and minerals, including iron, each of which help keep your body in tip top condition, in their own unique ways.
If you’re vegetarian, making sure you get a good dose of vitamin C every day can help to absorb non-haem iron. If you’re a fan of tea, you need to keep an eye on your iron levels, as the tannins found in your favourite hot beverage can restrict the amount of iron you absorb. Dairy food can also prevent iron from being absorbed, due to the casein found in milk.
Foods high in iron
Here are five foods that are particularly high in iron, that can help you on your way to staying energised and enjoying quality time with the family:
- Liver without a doubt contains some of the highest levels of iron in any food available. For every 100g of liver, your body benefits from 23mg of iron – well over the RDA for both men and women. Don’t overdo it with liver however – enjoy it occasionally.
- Pumpkin seeds are another fantastic iron source, with 15mg found in every 100g of these tasty snacks. Oven roast them and add them to your porridge or cereal, or even enjoy a handful for your elevenses, to keep on top of your iron levels.
- Lentils are not only extremely versatile, but can provide women with a quarter of their daily dose of iron and 42% for men. They make a great soup or addition to a casserole!
- Another very adaptable food product that’s bursting with iron is quinoa – a relatively new, up and coming grain that health enthusiasts are incorporating into their diets. Quinoa can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner so there’s no excuse to not be getting plenty of iron in your diet.
- Spinach holds similar amounts of iron as quinoa, and goes well with eggs for breakfast, or as part of a healthy dinner. It’s especially good stirred into a creamy pasta sauce – a great way of hiding it from picky children.
These are just a few foods that have lots of iron and a varied and balanced diet you should get more than enough. Keep on top of your iron levels and you will begin to see a difference in your energy levels (vital as a mum!!!).
A final note – if you’re worried you might be suffering from anaemia, speak to your GP, who will be able to offer advice on the best steps for you to take to reduce the effect it has on your body and daily life.
Please note, this information is for guidance only and must not substitute professional medical advice. If you are concerned, please consult your pharmacist or GP.
*This post is in collaboration with Vitabiotics