Iron is an essential mineral carried in the red blood cells and found in the spleen, bone marrow, liver and muscles. Fatigue and even anaemia can result if your iron levels become too low.

Iron supplementation for iron deficient people has been shown in a clinical trial to reduce fatigue by 50%. Often iron deficiency can go unrecognised and is put down to general stress and feeling run down. The recommended intake of iron for men and post-menopausal women is 8.7mg and for younger women it is 14.8mg per day.

 Do you think you might be deficient in iron?

  • Are you feeling tired a lot of the time?
  • Do you struggle to get out of bed in the morning?
  • Do you get restless legs at night?
  • Do you sometimes feel dizzy?
  • Do you feel the cold more than others seem to?
  • Are you very pale?
  • Do you have pale lips, gums, nails or are you pale around eyes?
  • Do you have brittle or ridged nails?
  • Do you have a sore tongue?
  • Do you have hair loss?
  • Do you take a lot of exercise?

How to improve iron status

The belief can be that iron is really only found in red meat but this is not the case. Eating plenty of dark leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, chard and rocket and wholegrains like chickpeas, beans and peas will help levels. Dried apricots are a good snack, while adding spices like turmeric and ginger to food will also boost levels.

  • Always soak wholegrains and pulses well before cooking. Pre-soaking for a few hours in water and then rinsing thoroughly in fresh water breaks down the phytic acid content and allows for better iron absorption. Nuts such as cashew nuts also benefit from a soak with a little squeeze of lemon to help break down phytates which would otherwise bind to iron and inhibit absorption.
  • Stomach acid is needed to release iron from foods. If you feel you may have low stomach acid (frequent bloating & wind after meals) it is helpful to take 1-2 teaspoons of cider vinegar in a small glass of water before a meal to support the acidic environment and the digestion of nutrients. Use of antacids will cause low stomach acids.
  • Take Vitamin C with iron rich foods such as whole grains and pulses as it aids absorption. Foods like Kiwi, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, watercress, kale and broccoli are good sources. Dried apricots with fresh berries would be a good combination too. These combinations are especially important for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet relying on non-haem sources of iron.
  • Eat foods that enhance absorption. As well as vitamin C, lactic acid and amino acids are good which include garlic, oats, yoghurt, pickled vegetables. Probiotic foods are excellent and Vitamin A so incorporate orange foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, papaya, mango and peaches.

What inhibits iron absorption

  • Tannins found in tea, coffee, red wine
  • Phosphoric acid found in fizzy drinks and beer
  • High supplementation of zinc and high calcium intake

A good multi-Vitamin and Mineral will help keep iron status sufficient see Living Multinutrient Complex Terranova , Healthy Woman Support Natural Health Practice. If you feel some of the iron deficiency symptoms and need an energy boost try Vital Pur Energy Drasanvi . Other superfoods high in iron are Spirulina, Chlorella and Moringa KIKI Health.