says your GP, after having some blood tests done. Because you just didn’t feel right.
“But I eat red meat and green veggies,” you reply.
“Well, these blood tests show otherwise. You’ll need to take an iron supplement and eat more red meat,” says your doctor.
Guess what, this is only one view. Tests only show what they show at the time. They don’t go into the cause or the why.
A number of clients came up with low iron levels, despite eating red meat and green leafy veggies.
After a bit of investigation, having low iron levels may not be to do with not eating enough iron. It might be that you are not absorbing the iron you take in effectively.
You could eat red meat every day and still have low iron levels. The thing we need to consider is what you are eating it with.
Iron has two dietary forms:
- Heme – comes from hemoglobin in red blood cells. Therefore, only animal products contain heme iron.
- Non-heme – comes from plant foods.
The body absorbs heme iron more efficiently than non-heme iron.
Consuming heme iron sources will improve your levels more quickly.
The best sources are:
- Chicken, beef livers and other organ meats
- Oysters, sardines, anchovies, clams, mussels
If you aren’t game enough to eat organ meats, then the following will also provide considerable amounts of iron:
- Chuck beef
- Ground beef
- Top sirloin
- Dark turkey meat / dark chicken meat (thigh/leg)
If you want to have non-heme iron sources, then the best ones to consume are:
- Other beans and dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, are also great vegetarian sources of iron, with about 3 to 4 milligrams per serving.
Don’t forget: Broccoli / Kale / Peas
The body does not absorb non-heme iron as well as heme iron. Combining heme iron sources of lean meat, poultry, or fish with beans, lentils or dark leafy green vegetables in a meal improves the absorption of non-heme iron.
Vitamin C also boosts the absorption of all types of iron, so combining foods high in Vitamin C with either heme or non-heme iron sources will be ideal.
Examples of combination:
- Make overnight oats by soaking oats in orange juice and then mixing with some yogurt in the morning with nuts.
- Green smoothie with oranges and spinach. Or silverbeet, mango, walnuts and cinnamon.
- Chicken salad with tomatoes, spinach, capsicum and beetroot.
- Meatballs in tomato sauce.
- Beef mince with broccoli, tomatoes and capsicum.
Things that inhibit absorption of iron
- Tea, Coffee and Caffeinated beverages
- Tea contains tannins which can reduce iron absorption so drink tea between meals.
- Coffee has less tannins that tea but has other compounds that reduce iron absorption.
Don’t consume with iron foods as you will not absorb the iron and it would just be a waste, as an iron source can reduce absorption by up to 80%.
So if you are having a coke with your steak – that’s a big no no. I hate to tell you what to eat, but if you are having issues with iron, now is the time to pay attention.
Do you have a health & nutrition issue you need help with? Then Ask Angie, I’m here to help 🙂