Nutrition Focus: Iron

Nutrition Focus: Iron

Last year I had a blood test and discovered I was anaemic. Anaemia is a condition where the body doesn’t have enough haemoglobin for red blood cells, resulting in tiredness, weakness, and fatigue. I’m not a medical professional, but I was keen to fix this by eating more iron-rich foods instead of taking iron tablets. I was fortunate that I was able to increase my iron levels by my next blood test.

Of course, if a doctor recommends you take iron tablets you should – especially if you’re pregnant!

I choose to eat a meat-free diet, so increasing my iron level naturally required some research. The NHS recommends at least 8.7mg of iron for all adults, increasing to 14.8mg for most women aged 19-49. However, beware of consuming over 20mg of iron as this can cause side-effects.

Increase Your Vitamin C

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Vitamin C is proven to improve absorption of iron, so increasing vitamin C-rich foods in your diet is a great way to boost your efforts! The NHS recommends adults need 40mg of vitamin C a day.
Foods high in vitamin C include:
Yellow, Red and Orange Peppers
Brussels Sprouts
Oranges and lemons
Fortified foods including some cereals.

Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

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Having caffeinated beverages within 1 hour of eating iron rich foods can reduce the absorption by 70-80%, so best to avoid them one hour each side of eating.

Dark Leafy Greens

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Veggies like Spinach (2.7mg per 100g) are a great way to boost your iron levels, as they also contain Vitamin C. Similarly, Kale has 1.9mg/100g, Brussels sprouts contain 1.4mg/100g, and Rocket has 1.5mg/100g. Make sure your meals contain a delicious leafy green veg!

Cruciferous Veg

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Dark leafy greens are all considered Cruciferous vegetables, so we’ll be focussing on the ones where you don’t tend to eat the leaves! Broccoli has 0.7mg/100g, Cauliflower stands at 0.4mg/100g. Whilst they might not be as high in iron as the dark leafy greens, it’s definitely easier to eat 100g of broccoli than spinach!

Beans and Legumes

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Pulses and beans are brilliant sources of iron for vegetarians. Cooked Lentils contain 3.3mg per 100g, Kidney Beans are 2.9mg/100g and Chickpeas at 6.2mg/100g. A perfect iron-rich meal would be a three-bean chilli with peppers and tomato sauce for added Vitamin C.

Nuts are also a great source of Iron, with the leader being the Cashew at 6mg/100g, Peanuts at 4.6mg/100g, Almonds standing at 3.7mg, and Pecans and Walnuts coming in at 2.7mg/100g.

Soya Products

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As we’ve established, beans are high in iron – and Edamame (soya beans) are no exception! You can get 2.3mg from 100g of cooked edamame beans, 5.4mg from Tofu, and even 0.3mg from 100ml of unfortified soya milk. A fantastic meal to add to your iron boosting repertoire would be a tofu stir fry with delicious leafy greens, broccoli, and peppers for a Vitamin C boost. You could always add edamame for a double soya hit!

Grains and Seeds

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Adding a sprinkling of seeds to your salads, granola, vegetable sides, and stir fries can add a little more iron. Sesame Seeds are the highest at 14.6mg/100g, then Flax Seeds at 5.6mg/100g, and Pumpkin Seeds at 3.3mg/100g.

Whole grains are a perfect source, with Oats containing 4.7mg/100g, Quinoa at 1.5mg/100g, Millet is 3mg/100g, and Wheat 3.9mg/100g – even Wholemeal Pasta contains 1.7g/100g!

That means a bowl of porridge, made with soya milk, and sprinkling of nuts or seeds and blackcurrants can be a supercharged iron-boosting meal with a source of vitamin C!

Dark Chocolate

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Fantastic news! Dark Chocolate with at least 50% cocoa solids is a source of iron! For a 70-85% coca chocolate, you’re looking at around 12mg/100g! It’s definitely worth having a square or two of an evening, and if you drizzle it over strawberries you’ll get some vitamin C to boost it as well as a delicious treat!

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