Approximately one-third of all women suffer from iron deficiency. Malnutrition is unusual in Sweden because most people have a healthy diet, but iron deficiency is still common. In this article, Svenskt Kött shows how to get enough iron in your diet to perform optimally.
What is iron good for?
The body needs iron to form hemoglobin, a substance found in the red blood cells. The hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to the organs and tissues, like the muscles. This makes iron essential for runners and other endurance athletes. When the muscles are insufficiently oxygenated during training, it simply becomes impossible to perform well.
How to know whether you are suffering from iron deficiency
Signs of iron deficiency include:
impaired immune system
Individuals who suffer from iron deficiency feel exhausted. It can for example be challenging to just go up a flight of stairs.
The reason why women get iron deficiency more often than men is partly because of menstruation, but also because women limit their meat intake more than men do.
What should you eat to boost your iron levels?
There are two types of iron; heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron is found in, for example, meat, eggs and shellfish and nonheme iron is found in produce such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and dried fruit. The body's uptake of iron is relatively low compared to its uptake of other nutrients, but the heme iron is absorbed more easily, than the nonheme iron.
There are plenty of iron-rich vegetables. Spinach is for example often mentioned as particularly rich in iron, but it is not close to the amount of iron found in meat and offal. Half a serving of blood pudding is for example sufficiant to get 15mg or iron, which is the recommended amount per day. The corresponding amount of spinach is 750 grams. That's about 10 bags of fresh baby spinach.
It is of course very good to eat iron-rich vegetables as well. There is actually something in vegetables which helps the uptake of nonheme iron. It is called the meat factor and means that only a very small amount of meat, poultry or fish helps the body to absorb the nonheme iron from vegetables. The best way to avoid iron deficiency is thus to eat a varied assortment of foods and not to exclude anything on the plate.