You can be anemic and not even know it, and that’s just one of the reason iron deficiency is so widespread amongst women.
In fact, the symptoms of iron anemia often resemble symptoms of many other problems that plague hard-charging women like us from chronic fatigue, to adrenal fatigue, and even the way we feel after over-exercising or training for that 10K.
Iron deficient anemia symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Looking pale
- Feeling exhausted and lethargic all the time
- Heavy periods
- Brain fog and mood changes
- Cravings for Ice (and sometimes dirt!)
- Excessive hair loss
In fact, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiencies among women, especially female vegetarians (so get those beans, nuts, seeds, and grains in there vegans!)
Why women need iron like crazy
Iron is crucial to get in your diet because it helps you manufacture hemoglobin, which helps your cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body. Without enough iron, then, it’s impossible for your blood to carry adequate oxygen all the places that it’s needed in the body like your cells, brain, skin, and muscles.
This is why if you’re anemic, you’ll feel foggy, can’t ever find your keys, and find yourself wanting to do just a little less every day—until you fix it.
In other words, if you’re not making sure to get enough iron in your diet, you’ll have no energy for just plain living—not to mention working out and taking care of yourself well. And that’s no way to live.
How much iron do you need?
Women ages 18 to 50 need 18 mgs of iron a day—even more during menstruation—and 27 mgs. every day if you’re pregnant.
Now, you don’t want to overload on iron at the same time. In fact, studies show that iron in excess can be, in fact, quite deadly. It’s called hemochromatosis and it can cause cirrhosis of the liver or heart failure. So, keep iron ingestion right there around that recommended RDA.
Who runs the risk of hemochromatosis? Typically, individuals re-embracing the old Atkins way of eating – all protein diets, or people on high fat meat diets only, where they’re taking in only fattier cuts of red meat all day, like some strict Paleo dieters do.
To help you make sure you’re getting plenty of iron in your diet, here are plant and animal food suggestions that contain the biggest amounts of iron of all foods.
Heme and non-heme Iron and iron absorption
First, a quick explanation of heme and non-heme sources of iron. Heme iron sources are meat sources of iron. We absorb this kind of iron most easily. However, you CAN boost your absorption of non-heme iron (plant iron sources) by adding a vitamin C-rich food because the ascorbic acid in vitamin C foods help you absorb iron more effectively.
Heme /meat choices rich in Iron
- Canned clams (1, 3 oz. can) 23.8 mgs.
- Light tuna canned in water (1 cup) 18 mgs.
- Chicken liver (3 oz) 11 mgs.
- Cooked oysters (3 oz.) 10.2 mgs.
- Beef liver (3 oz) 5 mgs.
- Beef – chuck, 85% lean ground, and top sirloin (3 oz.) 2.3 mgs.
- Turkey (roasted, dark meat, 3 oz.) 2 mgs
- Turkey (white meat, 3 oz.) 1.1
- Chicken (3 oz. dark meat) 1.1
Vegetarian/non heme iron-rich foods
- Ready-to-eat, iron-fortified cereal (from 30 to 60 mgs) per cup!
- Beans – kidney, lima, pinto, black, navy (1 cup) approximately 3.5 to 4 mgs.
- Fermented soy-based foods such as firm tofu (1/2 cup) 1.8 mgs.
- Lentils (1 cup) 6.6 mgs.
- Nuts and seeds (1 ounce) 1 to 2 mgs. On average
- Spinach (2 cups). 1.6 mgs.
- Raisins (a big handful—60 raisins approx.) .5 mgs.
You’ll note from these charts above, some of the healthiest ways to get more iron is through shellfish and plants, if you want to stick to whole, unprocessed foods (which is the healthiest way to eat, love!)
Some suggestions for iron rich eating for maximum health and wellness
My favorite way to know I’m getting enough iron in the diet is to make smoothies—fruit and green food blends that taste delicious—or stews rich in red meat and energy-yielding sweet potatoes and vitamin C-rich vegetables.
Here are two of my favorite recipes for iron-rich eating.
Nutty Milky Spinach Smoothie (45 seconds to a great smoothie!)
- 1 frozen banana (they make it cold, sweet, and delicious)
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
- 1 cup almond milk
Blend and voila—you’ve got the iron rich spinach in there and lots of good tasting fruit and almond milk. For even more iron and a nutty flavor, add some light but flavor-packed nuts like almonds or cashews to the blender.
Iron and C-Rich Stew Idea
My other favorite iron-boosting recipe is a stew I like to make full of vitamin C-rich vegetables like celery, asparagus, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and iron containing meats, like grass-fed chuck roast.
In short, get that iron in there, love.
It’ll give you all the energy you need to do all those things you got to do for you and yours.
Which food recipe do you prefer for your iron intake? The Spinach Smoothie or the Meat Chunck Stew? Comment below.
Author: Vanessa White @OlanikeeOsi