Many pre-menopausal women suffer from low iron stores. Whether it arises from poor absorption, heavy periods, increased need due to pregnancy, or a low iron diet, the results are the same: tiredness, difficulty concentrating, muscle weakness, and poor immune function. If iron levels are very low, anemia can result. Your iron levels can be easily tested in a routine blood draw.
How Can I Increase My Iron Levels?
It is important to focus on your diet first, and you don't need to necessarily eat more red meat. Ground turkey, for example, has almost as much iron as ground beef. And the best sources, ounce for ounce, are actually shellfish such as clams and mussels. Other good sources include leafy greens, beans, lentils, whole and fortified grains, nuts, and seeds.
But Isn't The Iron In Plants Poorly Absorbed?
There are 2 types of iron in food: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found only in animal products, non-heme iron is found in plant and animal foods. The non-heme form of iron is not as readily absorbed as heme iron. However, there are ways to improve absorption:
- Combine non-heme foods with foods high in Vitamin C (citrus, berries, broccoli, red peppers)
- Don't have coffee or tea at the same time
I Don't Eat Meat - How Can I Add More Iron To My Diet?
- Add Parsley Pesto to pasta, sandwiches, and eggs
- Add Blackstrap Molasses to smoothies and baked goods
- Add spinach or kale to smoothies, soups, and pasta sauces
- Simmer sauces in a Cast Iron Pan
- If you eat fish, add more shellfish - Clams and Mussels
- Add pumpkin seeds and sunflowers seeds to salads
- Try new recipes for Quinoa and Lentils
My Doctor Wants Me To Take A Supplement - Which One Is Best?
Iron supplements are notoriously hard to digest, so if they have been prescribed by your doctor, be sure to choose a quality supplement and slowly ramp up your intake. The most common side effects are digestive upset and constipation.