Iron deficiencies in women represent the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Female athletes are particularly at risk. A lack of iron in men, on the other hand, is fairly unusual. Ironically, despite the fact women need more than twice as much as men due to blood/iron loss during menstruation, they tend to consume less of the iron rich lean meats than men (iron from meat is better absorbed than iron from plant foods.)
Iron deficiency leads to weakness and feeling 'washed out' and a decreased ability to maintain and recover from physical activity. More extremely, it leads to anaemia, where an insufficient number of red cells in the blood results in too little oxygen being carried from the lungs to the organs and tissues of the body. Vitamin C assists in iron absorption and a glass of orange juice with a meal will help the iron from plant foods to be absorbed.
Iron is needed in red blood cells to form haemoglobin. It is essential in the transfer of oxygen to all body and muscular tissues. Iron is also involved in the chemical reactions that produce energy.
Iron deficiencies can cause nutritional anaemia, tiredness, impaired work capacity and impairment of learning ability in children.
Lean meat is most important, with liver kidneys and heart particularly rich sources. Chicken and fish contain lower quantities. Cereal and cereal products and green vegetables and pulses also contribute iron. In fact, nearly all vegetables contain iron, the best sources being: cabbage, endive, chicory, parsley, peas, potato, and sweetcorn.
- The tannin in tea can interfere with iron absorption so it is probably better to have your tea weak and to drink it between rather than with meals.
- The amount of iron stored in your body is the equivalent of a large nail.
To sustain your correct level of iron women need between 12-16 mg, (approx. twice that amount during pregnancy) and men and postmenopausal women only 5-7 mg.
Are you eating enough iron? Put your diet to the test