Iron deficiency and women: How do you achieve the optimal iron intake?

Women are more exposed to iron deficiency than men due to losses through menstrual bleedings. Most women do not consume enough iron to support their body’s needs. Iron deficiency is therefore a common thing.

Additionally, if you combine this with being vegan, vegetarian or sporty, you require special attention in regards to your iron needs. Meat is considered to be a main source of iron and as vegan and vegetarian, you need other sources of iron. With high level of sport you also have increased energy and nutrient requirements.

Iron deficiency can lead to decreased performance of your body due to increased muscle weakness. Tiredness is also a common symptom, and since women generally do not consume enough iron to support their needs, women would experience the benefit from increasing their intake of iron.

Tips to avoid iron deficiency and make sure you get enough iron through your diet

There are certain aspects relevant to keep in mind. For instance, the fact that iron from meat and fish is the most bioavailable iron and it’s easily absorbed from the gut. Whereas iron from cereals and veggies is not as easily absorbed because the absorption is affected by other nutrients (such as phytic acids in grains). On the other side, some nutrients can actually increase iron absorption. Below we will try to guide you through some main points for you to keep in mind.

Good ideas to ensure an optimal iron status through your diet:

  • Meat and fish are rich in iron which is easily absorbed in the gut. Eating enough meat during a day contributes substantially to the overall intake of iron.
  • Whole-grain is a good source. Cereals and bread contain phytic acid, which inhibits iron absorption. However, whole-grains contain an enzyme called phytase that breaks down the phytic acid and increases iron absorption from bread and cereals. The leavening of bread or soaking of seeds and grains in water will facilitate the enzyme phytase to break down phytic acid, which increases the absorption of iron.
  • Vitamin C enhances the iron uptake. Therefore, eating vitamin C-rich foods together with your meals will increase the body’s ability to absorb iron from foods. Broccoli, oranges, lemons, buckthorn, strawberries, kiwis and red peppers are good sources of vitamin C.
  • Beans, chickpeas, lentils, almonds, seeds, nuts, and dried fruits such as figs and raisins are rich in iron and can easily be added to salads to increase the iron content of the diet.
  • To optimize the absorption of iron from foods, avoid drinking red wine, coffee, tea, cocoa, and calcium-rich drinks together with your meal. Actually, they should not be consumed up to an hour before or after meals. These beverages contain polyphenols and calcium that inhibit the iron uptake in the gut.

Iron deficiency during pregnancy

If you are pregnant, you should be extra aware of your iron intake. We can assist you in determining whether you need an additional iron supplement to help you stay at the right level. You can take our test here and find out more.

If you want to learn more about bioavailability of vitamins and minerals in general, please read this blog post as well: Bioavailability of vitamins and minerals – what does it mean?

 

We hope that this quick guide gives you some good tips on increasing your iron intake during the day. If you have any other relevant tips, please share in the comments!