Iron; one for the ladies
In a society obsessed with counting calories, macros and focusing too much on the number on the scale- we’re moving away from the most importance aspect of all; HEALTH.
‘The fitness industry is not the health industry’
As important as eating towards your specific goals are, what’s even more important are micronutrients which enable your body to function at its most optimum in order to utilise the energy and nutrients obtained from food in the first place.
Todays micronutrient of choice is Iron, why?
Because I personally believe it is one of THE most important minerals in the body. I’ve chosen to talk a little bit more about this topic in women because ladies, like it or not, when you’re menstruating, you need to ensure you get even more Iron in your diet (sorry to the gents out there reading this) but I do believe this topic really isnt spoken about enough!
So why is Iron important in the first place?
I could sit here and list an abundance of roles that Iron is essential for in the body however I think i’ll save your sanity and simply mention a few;
-It carries oxygen from your lungs all over your body
-It is an essential constituent of enzymes imperative to normal health
-It contributes to the maintenance of your immune system
So pretty important roles really…
And that is why, insufficiency in dietary Iron will result in;
-Frequent and persistent infections
-You will eventually become anaemic
Look at the diagram below for a summary of what happens to the Iron you absorb:
As a female, your iron levels fluctuate because of your menstrual cycle; it is one of 3 main periods of your life when your requirements increase; along side pregnancy and lactation.
Now although pregnancy is associated with a temporary cessation in menstruation, your requirements close to double for physiological processes to meet the developing foetus and placenta (but that’s a whole other topic for a different day..)
A women between 18-50 years‘ RDA of Iron per day is currently around 18mg
Compare this to a woman over 50 and it significantly reduces to 8mg
Whereas a pregnant woman needs almost double at 29mg per day!
Men, on the other hand only need about 6-7mg their entire lives, they always have it easier than we do right 😛
There are actually two different types of Iron found in food:
1- Heme Iron (found only in meat and is well absorbed in the body)
2- Non-Heme Iron (derived from legumes, fruits and veg & is generally absorbed much more poorly within the body)
As each type is absorbed differently, there are steps you can take to ensure you maximise absorption..
-Keep your levels of Vitamin C high
-Avoid tannins when eating Iron (found in tea/coffee)
-Reduce your consumption of soy proteins
Okay so that’s all well and good- but where can you find the highest and most available levels of Iron?
For all you meat-eaters out there:
- Lean beef
Vegetables (in order of highest to lowest amount):
- Sundried tomatoes
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds (and butter)
Not forgetting sources of grains also:
- Rice bran
- Wheat flour
- Corn flour
I’ve included this incredibly handy nutrient calculator supplied by the Ministry of Health where you can plug in your details and it will show you recommended daily nutrient requirements specific to you:
I hope you found this article useful, I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this topic so feel free to tweet me or comment below 🙂
As always, I am open to questions/ advice if you need it also!