I have been feeling like the woman in the picture above for months now. I am constantly falling asleep even when I have gone to bed early and slept for 8 or more hours. I feel like I am cold all the time and like my mind has a constant brain fog – like the lights are on but no one is home! After some nasty blood tests, I have found out that I am deficient in iron.
I really shouldn’t be so surprised. I should have known this from the truckloads of tea I drink each day which would have been stopping the absorption of any iron I was getting from my diet.
I am finally on some prescribed iron tablets that hopefully will get me feeling back to normal as soon as possible. In the meantime, I think it is important you all know how vital iron is for our body and the best sources to get it from (if you’re thinking spinach, think again).
WHY IS IRON IMPORTANT?
Iron is absolutely essential for the production of energy, for the immune system to fight infections, for normal growth and development, and is also vital to carry oxygen around the body.
SYMPTOMS OF LOW IRON LEVELS:
- Lack of energy
- Poor concentration
- Frequent infections
- Feeling cold
Iron comes in two forms. Heme and Nonheme. Heme iron is only found in animal products and is easily absorbed by the body. Generally, the redder the meat, the higher the iron! Nonheme iron however, is found in both plant and animal products, but is not as well absorbed as heme iron. This is why some vegetarians are at high risk of iron deficiency and anaemia.
HEME IRON: Beef, lamb, chicken, pork, fish and shellfish.
NONHEME IRON: Eggs, nuts, tofu, beans, lentils, dark leafy green vegetables, iron fortified breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread.
Spinach having a high iron content however is a long standing myth! In 1870, a German scientist misplaced the decimal point when measuring the vegetables iron content. The mistake wasn’t noticed until 1930’s! This resulted in the popular misconception that spinach is high in iron. To make matters worse, spinach contains high amounts of oxalate, an absorption-inhibiting substance which largely reduces the irons use in the body.
I would suggest if you are vegetarian to not count solely on spinach for your iron intake, but to include a wide range of dark leafy green vegetables, lentils, eggs, tofu, and wholegrains in your diet. Consuming vitamin C with your meals will also HUGELY aid the absorption of any iron that is available in the food.
Iron supplements are also available however I would recommend trying to get as much iron rich foods as you can naturally from your diet. Iron is much more easily absorbed when consumed through whole foods, not to mention you will be getting a whole lot of other vitamins and minerals that are also essential for your health and wellbeing!
For more information, visit Beef and Lamb New Zealand.