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Are you getting enough Iron?

I'm a regular at my doctors surgery, in fact I'm on first-name-terms with the receptionist. I have to pop in for blood tests and iron infusions every 3 months. Iron is actually a very tricky mineral to absorb, with many people eating iron-rich foods but still finding that they're iron-deficient (me!). So while my iron intake is just dandy, my body struggles to actually absorb the stuff. That's because I favour  whereas leafy green iron sources (including spinach and legumes) known as non-haem iron, but meat such as beef and lamb are full of haem iron which is much easier for our bodies to benefit from.

High iron foods include clams, liver, sunflower seeds, nuts, beef, lamb, beans, whole grains, kangaroo, dark leafy greens (spinach), dark chocolate, and tofu. With all those delicious options, it's not hard to actually eat the stuff. But if you lack energy, you may be low on this essential mineral. I previously put it down to a busy lifestyle, but it's advisable to see your doc if you suffer from any of the following symptoms:

• Tiredness (even after rest)

• Lack of energy

• Poor concentration

• Irritability

• Frequent infections

• Feeling down

Are you at risk?

Women of childbearing age are at risk of iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is more common in women who:

• Are pregnant or breastfeeding

• Have heavy periods

• Don’t eat much meat

Why do you need iron?

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Practical tips to ensure you get enough iron

Instead of relying on supplements, improving your diet by including iron and zinc rich foods is a preventative (and much cheaper) solution. 

Don't rely on leafy greens

As i'm all-too familiar, eating iron-rich foods doesn't necessarily guarantee that your body is actually absorbing the iron. Spinach and dark greens are often touted as a rich source of iron. However, for the body to absorb the same amount of iron as from 100g of beef, you'd have to eat 4.5 cups of spinach. Pretty testing, even by my palate.

Eat red meat

The iron in red meat is the most easily absorbed by the body. If you can eat red meat, it's interesting to know that beef and lamb contains double the iron than in pork, chicken and fish.

There is a misconception that red meat is fattening or hard to digest – but beef is actually the most nutrient-rich protein source of all popular proteins. It holds 13 essential nutrients and has less than 4% saturated fat when trimmed (earning it the Heart Foundation tick of approval). The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating 130g of cooked red meat, such as beef or lamb, every second day. 

> Vitamin C can assist your body's absorption of iron, so have a cup of orange juice or drizzle lemon juice over your meal

> In contrast, drinking a cup of coffee or tea during the meal will actually decrease the amount of iron absorbed by the body

Recipe ideas:

Check out these delicious meal ideas from

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If you don't love the taste and/or texture of red meat, I find this Kangaroo Chilli very palatable.

Remember, your body needs all the essential vitamins and minerals to keep functioning at it's best so that you can be ready to tackle what life throws at you.

the fit foodie

Sally O'Neil - Editor in Chief

Sal is on a mission to prove that healthy and nutritious doesn’t have to be boring – and that even while staying in shape you can have your cake and eat it too. After losing 14kg from adopting a healthier lifestyle, she shares her journey with others on The Fit Foodie Blog. She also works as a commercial food photographer and stylist, is studying a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, and is the author of two cookbooks: Love Move Eat (Bauer Media, 2017) and Meal Prep Plan (Murdoch, 2019).

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