Boosting Iron Intake

Iron is an important mineral for our bodies, vital for physical and mental health and well-being. It helps to carry oxygen in the blood, maintains a healthy immune system and helps in energy production. That is why if you are low in iron you feel tired and lethargic, may struggle to fight off colds or infections, and may have difficulty concentrating.

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Women and teenage girls tend to be more affected by low iron than men and boys, with 1 in 14 women over the age of 15 years not achieving their daily iron requirements, leading to iron deficiency.

The amount of iron required to meet recommended dietary intake depends not only on the total iron intake but also on the ability of the body to absorb and use the iron from the food, known as bioavailability.

There are two types of iron in food: haem iron found only in meat and fish; and non-haem iron found mainly in plants, but it is also present in meat. The body absorbs and uses haem iron a lot more easily than non-haem iron, which is why you hear that you need to eat a massive plateful of spinach to get the same amount of iron as you would from a normal sized steak.

There are ways that you can help boost iron absorption, especially the non-haem type. One of the easiest ways is to include vitamin C rich foods with your meals. Heat reduces vitamin C content so salads or salsas that use vitamin C rich foods to serve with a meal are a great option, or make salad dressings that include juice from citrus fruits. And during summer with BBQ season, these vitamin C rich additions make a great accompaniment to a juicy steak or a vegetarian option of BBQ’d vegetables.

Foods rich in vitamin C include kiwifruit, capsicum, citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, feijoas and tamarillos.

Here is a quick and easy recipe for a vitamin C rich salsa to go with your next BBQ.

Kiwifruit Salsa

Ingredients

2 green and/or golden kiwifruit

½ red capsicum, chopped

¼ red onion, finely diced; or 1 spring onion, finely sliced; or 2 Tbsp. chopped chives

3 Tbsp. chopped parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped mint

2 tsp. lemon or lime juice

Pinch each salt and pepper

Method

Peel the kiwifruit and dice into 1 cm cubes and combine in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Stir carefully so as not to mash the kiwifruit. Serve as a side dish with your next BBQ.