Are You Getting Enough Iron?

enough iron

Do you ever feel tired or lethargic, seem irritable or grumpy, suffer frequent infections, feel the cold, tire easily when exercising or have difficulty concentrating?

It may surprise you these common symptoms are often caused by iron deficiency; easily avoided by eating more iron-rich foods.

At Meat Direct we know how good beef, lamb and venison can be to keep your iron levels up. However, thousands of Kiwis don’t get enough iron. With many people unaware they are low in iron, iron deficiency remains an ongoing issue for many New Zealanders. According to the last national nutrition surveys, low iron levels were evident in one in 14 adult women over 15 years old, with over a third of teenage girls aged 15-18 years not achieving their daily iron requirements.

Where is the iron in what we eat?

There are two sorts of iron in food – haem iron (in meat and fish) and non-haem iron (in plants). Our bodies absorb haem iron more efficiently than iron from plant foods, with about a quarter being used. Only about 5% of non-haem iron is absorbed. Haem iron foods include beef, lamb, liver, kidney, pork, poultry and seafood. Red meat possesses the highest concentration of iron. Non-haem iron foods include bread, breakfast cereals, beans and lentils, eggs, nuts, fruit and vegetables.

How much iron do we need?

In general terms, red meat three to four times a week is the ideal amount. Lean meats are relatively low in calories but high in iron. Babies, toddler, teenagers, women including pregnant and breastfeeding women, and sports people all need extra iron. Beef, lamb and venison are all high in iron and whether it be mince, steaks or casseroles, there are loads of options to get that iron on board for you and your family.

Recommended daily intake of iron

• Infants 0-6 months: 0.2mg
• Infants 7-12 months: 11mg
• Children 1-13 years: 8-10mg
• Boys 14-18 years: 11mg
• Girls 14-18 years: 15mg
• Women 19-50 years: 18mg
• Pregnant women: 27mg
• Breastfeeding women: 9-10mg
• Women over 50 years: 8mg
• Men over 19 years: 8mg

Ensuring you maximise your iron intake

Here’s a few great hints from Beef + Lamb New Zealand:

EAT RED MEAT AND VEGETABLES TOGETHER. “Meat and three veg” is a traditional Kiwi meal and it’s good for you, too. Eating meat and vegetables together helps the body use up to four times more of the non-haem iron in the meal.
GET PLENTY OF VITAMIN C. This also helps the body use non-haem iron. Try to include fruit or vegetables with every meal.
KEEP YOUR MEALS TANNIN-FREE. The tannin in tea, and to a lesser extent coffee, reduces the amount of iron used from food. Aim to drink tea and coffee between meals rather than with them.

So have a go at being aware of your iron intake, get enough iron, and see if it makes a difference to how you are feeling.