Do you have the low iron blues?

Poor concentration, pale skin, dizziness, low immunity and fatigue can all be signs that your iron levels are low, writes Julie Fergusson.

During the winter months we tend to train inside in the gym, rather than outside which can cause iron levels ran run low due to a lack on sunshine. The best way to ensure that you have a regular supply of iron is to include iron rich foods into your diet every day.   

Foods high in iron

  • Winter vegetables high in iron include beetroot, silverbeet, parsley, and kale
  • Proteins like lentils, kidney beans, beef and lamb are great in stews and casseroles, and ideal in a crockpot ready to eat after a cold winter’s day
  • Dried fruits such prunes, apricots, figs, and currants can be sprinkled on dessert or cereals
  • Blackstrap molasses makes a great addition to baking, cooking sauces and marinades
  • Sea vegetables – nori and other types of seaweed and kelp are great mineral boosters in Asian stir fries, soups and stews. Spirulina is another way to add iron into smoothies.

Absorption blockers
There is a tug of war happening with our digestion for mineral absorption. Some things help and some hinder mineral absorption. Heavy tea drinkers are often known to have low iron levels due to the tannins in the tea reducing iron absorption in the digestive system. Other things in “the iron reduced camp” include; coffee, zinc, calcium, and phytate which is a compound contained in soy protein and fibre and interferes with iron absorption. If a person needs more iron, they should avoid these items to improve the amount of iron absorbed. However, there are also some medications can that interfere with iron absorption such as antacids, cholesterol lowering and proton pump inhibitors medications and a good suggestion would be to check with regular blood tests if these are taken.

Absorption enhancers
Hydrochloric acid (HCI) present in the stomach is important to help with the digestive process and enabling iron to be absorbed. Fruit, fruit juice and Vitamin C can also help with optimal iron absorption. If you are taking supplemental iron it is important to read the label to ensure you are getting the best out of your supplement.  

Iron supplements
Sometimes iron supplements are necessary if you are low in iron. Your body needs to replenish iron daily to make healthy red blood cells and you should notice improved energy levels after a few days. For the fastest absorption choose a liquid iron with Vitamin C that can help with the body’s ability to get maximum absorption. Vitamin B also helps to support your vitality. 

Iron is not for everyone
There is small group of people who store iron called hemochromatosis a hereditary disorder. People with this in particular should avoid excess iron. Postmenopausal women and men also often don’t require iron unless they have a bleeding disorder.

Julie Fergusson is a naturopath from Red Seal.



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