Iron is an essential part of our diet, yet many women are iron-deficient. Make sure to include a balance of a variety of iron-rich foods in your diet.
What does iron do in the body?
Iron is a crucial mineral that the body needs for growth and development. Your body uses iron to make haemoglobin – a protein in red-blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body – and myoglobin – a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. Your body also needs iron to make some hormones.
Adequate iron levels are also needed for:
- A healthy pregnancy
- Sleep health
- Reducing levels of fatigue
- Increasing levels of focus and energy.
- Supporting athletic performance.
Women are more likely than men to have an iron deficiency because they lose blood during menstruation. Pregnancy and childbirth can also cause iron deficiency.
Iron-rich foods to include in your diet
While iron supplements are readily available, here are some healthy iron-rich foods to include in your daily diet. Most pharmacies offer a haemoglobin test, but comprehensive iron tests can be booked through your medical doctor.
- Dried fruit (such as raisins)
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Iron-fortified breads and cereals
- Legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas)
- Dark leafy vegetables (spinach and broccoli)
- Oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)
- Shellfish (prawns and mussels)
- Red meat
- Offal (liver and kidneys)
You can enhance your body’s absorption of iron by drinking citrus juice or eating other foods rich in vitamin C at the same time that you eat high-iron foods. Vitamin C in citrus juices, like orange juice, helps your body to better absorb dietary iron. Click here to try this iron-rich plant-based recipe!