Increase your energy naturally with iron rich foods

October 20, 2021

Do you have no energy, always get a cold, or have weak hair?

Maybe you need more iron

Why is iron so important?

Iron is needed to make red blood cells and transport oxygen around the body giving energy.
Low levels of iron may result in poor energy, poor immune systems, low mood and even hair loss. The thyroid hormone which controls metabolic rate also needs iron.

Why do women need more iron?

We lose iron in menstrual blood which is why more women are deficient in iron than any other mineral. So, it is vital we regularly eat iron rich foods especially during menstruation.

What are good sources of iron?

There are two types of iron called haem iron (in animal food) and non-haem iron (in plant and animal food)

Haem Iron is found in: Liver, beef, lamb, salmon, haddock, tuna, sardines, turkey, oysters, eggs, and dairy

Non haem iron plant foods include:

Soybeans and all soy containing foods including tofu, natto, tempeh and miso.
Nuts and seeds especially sesame seeds, chickpeas, beans & lentils, almonds, cashews, almonds, and pistachio. Dried fruit apricots, figs, prunes are sweet tasting iron options.

Eat your greens

Spinach is famously high in iron. It is easier to absorb the iron if spinach is cooked. However spinach based smoothies are a convenient way to include iron and vitamin C.
Other green leafy vegetables such as chard, kale and spring greens are also good sources.

Get even more iron with Vitamin C

Vitamin C is needed to absorb non haem iron – this is the iron found in all plant food and present in animal food.
Best sources of Vitamin C are found in raw colourful plant food including:

Papaya, parsley, peppers, chilli, kiwi, strawberries, blackberries, pineapple, sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale, greens, cabbage tomato as well as citrus and apples.

Green based smoothies and juices are tasty sources of iron and vitamin C

So how can you add iron rich foods to your breakfast?

Start the day with eggs or scrambled tofu with sauteed spinach and slices of orange or raw tomato.
Whizz up a smoothie including spinach, brightly coloured fruit, sesame seeds, ground cashews, tahini butter and sweetened with molasses.

Prepare an overnight oat-based dish with oats, natural or soy yoghurt, sesame seeds, ground cashews, pomegranate, and figs.

How about lunch?

For pescatarians an easy lunch option is tinned fish with a colourful salad

Vegans and vegetarians can swap fish for chickpeas or beans

Dinner Options

A chickpea and spinach or lamb stew or tagine are excellent iron rich meals.
By adding in dried apricots and serving with a slice of pineapple or orange it will make them even better.

Red meat and liver

Red meat in particular organ meats such as liver are excellent sources of iron.
For meat eaters, planning in stews and lamb tagines just before and during your menstrual cycle will support you to keep up your iron levels.

You can even try hiding’ liver in stews or adding in liver pate.
Organic liver is sold at many supermarkets and is one of the cheapest cuts of meat you can buy.

Vegans

You can see from the foods above that plant foods contain good sources of iron.
However, your meals may need to be planned a little more because plant-based iron is harder to absorb.
Include iron rich foods such as nuts, seeds, cooked greens and pulses in your meals.

Can’t I just take iron supplements?

When iron levels are low supplementation is often recommended.
However, be careful of relying on iron supplements, especially if you haven’t had a full iron test. Iron supplementation may result in constipation.
Excess iron in the system is linked to toxicity and may upset our gut bacteria, causing further issues for us.

Three bowls containing tahini and soy sauce on a wooden board
Image by yilmazfatih from Pixabay
Tahini, a seed butter made from sesame seeds

5 Key Tips to Include

  • 2-3 dried apricots and a fistful of almonds or cashews
  • Tahini (sesame paste) dipped into carrot, celery, and pepper sticks
  • Handful of lightly steamed or sauteed green vegetables once daily
  • Include pulses especially if you are vegetarian or vegan
  • Fresh fruit or juice with your iron rich meals.

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