Boosting Iron Intake

Boosting Iron Intake

Iron is an important mineral for our bodies, vital for physical and mental health and well-being.

It enables blood to carry oxygen around the body, maintains a healthy immune system and helps in energy production.

Who’s at risk of iron deficiency?

Boosting Iron Intake

Iron is an important mineral for our bodies, vital for physical and mental health and well-being.

It enables blood to carry oxygen around the body, maintains a healthy immune system and helps in energy production.

Who’s at risk of iron deficiency?

In New Zealand, around 1 in 14 females over 15 years old have low iron levels.

It also turns out that 14% of children under the age of 2 are iron deficient.

Those that undertake heavy exercise regimes are also at risk due to exercise-induced iron loss and an impairment of iron absorption due to inflammation.

So how can you tell if you are low in iron?

  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Feel the cold easily
  • Irritable or grunmp
  • Can’t concentrate
  • Short of breath when exercising
  • Get sick often
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin and gums

You need iron to move oxygen around your body via your red blood cells, to get the oxygen to your muscles, organs and brain for optimal function.

Iron is essential for providing energy.

Low iron means you could be feeling tired and grumpy, lacking energy or more susceptible to illness.

The symptoms of iron deficiency are commonly associated with a ‘busy lifestyle’ or ‘a bug’; just feeling off or flat.

If you can tick any of the boxes in the list above, you may be short of iron – but don’t just rush out and grab an iron supplement ‘just in case.’ The only way to be sure that it is iron deficiency is to go to your doctor for a simple blood test.

While iron is essential it is also toxic if you have too much. It is rare to intake too much iron from food but supplements should taken under advisement from your doctor. Dietary choices that can affect iron intake.

There are two types of iron in food: haem iron and non-haem iron.

Haem iron is found in meat and seafood.

Non-haem iron is found in both plant and animal foods.

Although most of the iron we eat is from non-haem sources (all those vegetables), we actually obtain most of our iron from haem sources because the body absorbs it more efficiently.

These days with more of a focus on plant-based diets there has been an increase in the prevalence iron deficiency. It is all well and good to increase vegetables and decrease meat intake, however you need to be aware of the risk of reduced iron intake.

Once you are aware of the risk there are some simple dietary tweaks to compensate.

If you are eating a nice mixed variety of plant foods that are cooked, raw and even fermented, you are definitely on the right track. And here are 4 simple ways to help improve iron intake:

1. Include plenty of vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables into your meals as vitamin C can increase the absorption of non-haem iron by two to three times. A couple of easy vitamin C additions could be – make a dressing using lemon or orange juice; whip up a salsa with kiwifruit and capsicum.

2. The tanins in tea, coffee, cocoa and red wine inhibit non-haem iron absorption, so best to enjoy these between meals rather than with a meal.

3. Choose fermented soy foods such as tempeh and miso. Soy protein inhibits non-haem iron absorption, but iron bioavailability is improved after fermentation due to protein degradation.

4. Avoid low calorie or restrictive diets. Studies show that girls and women on low calorie or restrictive diets are at risk of missing out on their daily iron requirements.


Check out this iron boosting recipe, rich in vitamin C - Kiwifruit Salsa.