Why we need iron
Iron is important for growth and repair, brain and immune function, normal energy levels and transport of oxygen around the body. Women need 14.8mg and men 8.7mg a day. So which foods give us the most iron? Check out our 16 recommended iron-rich foods below.
Find out the amount of iron you can get from just one 80g serving of fresh fruit and vegetables ( that’s one of your five-a-day).
1. Sprouts, boiled
2. Asparagus, boiled
3. Leeks, steamed
4. Beetroot, raw
5. Broccoli, boiled
6. Spinach, steamed
7. Curly kale, steamed
8. Spinach, raw
Canned veg, pulses and beans
Find out the amount of iron you can get from just one 200g serving of the following veg, pulses and beans (one of your five-a-day).
11. Baked beans
Find our 10 ways you can use a tin of chickpeas, upgrade your brunch with our posh peas on toast recipe, give your baked beans an Indian twist or learn how to make our 4-ingredient sweetcorn fritters.
Find the amount of iron you can get from just one 30g serving of the following dried fruits (one of your five-a-day).
Dietitian Jennifer Low says:
The latest National Diet & Nutrition Survey, published in 2016, revealed that 48% of girls and 27% of women had low iron intakes (which is actually below the national dietary reference intake), putting them at risk of iron deficiency anaemia. You may be especially at risk of falling into these groups if you’re vegetarian or vegan, or have decided to cut back drastically on meat or fish.
Are non-meat sources just as good?
Iron comes in two forms, depending on its source:
* Haem iron is found in meat and is well absorbed by the body.
* Non-haem iron is found in plant foods, such as green leafy veg, pulses and dried fruits, and is not as well absorbed. This means you will need to aid the absorption of this vital mineral by taking the following steps:
– Eating foods with vitamin C alongside foods that contain iron, for example oranges, strawberries or raspberries with iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
– Avoiding drinking tea with iron-containing foods, as a cup of tea contains tannins (naturally occurring polyphenols that can inhibit the absorption of iron).
Tips on how to eat a more iron-rich diet:
* Snack on nuts: cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts and sesame seeds are more examples of great plant-based foods that provide iron.
* See your GP for a blood test if you feel uncharacteristically tired, short of breath, look pale or have heart palpitations. These can all be symptoms of iron-deficiency anaemia.