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Iron – are you getting enough?

by Isabel Young

Iron is an essential nutrient, responsible for the transport of oxygen from our lungs to every other part of our body including muscles, our brain and organs (so it’s pretty important). Iron is also especially important for females due to monthly menstrual losses with intake being 18mg/day for women aged 18-51 years compared to 8mg/day for women aged 51+ years.

When it comes to getting your iron, not all iron is created equal. There are two types, heam iron (found in animal products) and non-haem iron (found in plant products). Whilst both of these can help with maintaining healthy iron status, heam iron is more readily absorbed by our bodies.
Heam iron containing foods (the redder the meat, usually means the more iron):

  • Beef, lamb, pork
  • Chicken and other poultry
  • Fish
  • Organ meats
Non-heam iron containing foods:
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lentils, chickpeas and beans
  • Fortified breads and cereals
Iron absorption is also affected by what foods we eat in combination. Phytates which are found in fibrous foods, tannins in tea and calcium can inhibit absorption. However, foods rich in vitamin C can increase absorption, for example fruits (oranges or strawberries) or vegetables (capsicum, tomato or broccoli).

Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches and reduced ability to do work or exercise. If you feel like you are experiencing these more than you should check in with your GP for a quick blood test or see a dietitian to make sure you’re eating enough.

Sydney Sports Medicine Centre
Level 2, NSWIS Building
6 Figtree Drive
Sydney Olympic Park
NSW 2127

Written Correspondence
PO Box 3275
Rhodes NSW 2138

  (02) 9764 3131           (02) 9764 3443


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