Iron is an important mineral for our bodies – it helps to create red blood cells as well as make sure that oxygen is carried around the body. We get our iron intake from our diet, but you might be surprised to learn that many people suffer from iron deficiency, which can lead to several health conditions. Are you getting enough iron in your diet? Learn more about the importance of iron and how to boost your self-care by improving your iron intake.
The importance of iron
Our bodies need a lot of nutrients to ensure they function as they should. Iron is an essential nutrient that not only ensures your body has enough oxygen, but impacts your energy levels too. Without iron, your body can struggle to produce red blood cells, which can impact on your immune system.
Many people struggle with iron deficiency, which is also known as ‘anaemia’. It is particularly common amongst women in the UK, but an improvement in your diet could help you boost your iron levels.
You may have signs of an iron deficiency without even realising it. Some of the signs of an iron deficiency include:
- Feeling tired and having a constant lack of energy
- Being short of breath
- Experiencing heart palpitations
- Skin is noticeably paler
The NHS Choices website has a list of less common symptoms which could also be signs of an iron deficiency.
If these symptoms sound familiar, you could be suffering from iron deficiency anaemia. Diagnosing anaemia is relatively straightforward – your doctor will ask you about your lifestyle and rule out other contributors like pregnancy, before carrying out a blood test to check your blood count. Anaemia could be caused by several factors, including heavy periods or an ulcer, and your doctor can recommend appropriate treatment to help restore your iron levels.
If your blood count and iron levels are particularly low, your doctor might prescribe you with iron tablets to help restore them to normal levels.
Foods rich in iron
You can boost your iron intake yourself by adjusting your diet. Some of the foods richest in iron include:
- Liver, kidneys and other organ meats
- Legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas and soybeans
- Red meat
- Pumpkin seeds
- Spinach and kale
- Dark Chocolate
Some suggestions for adding more iron to your diet include:
If you enjoy cereal in the morning, opt for granola, which is rich in fibre and iron. By adding pumpkin seeds to your granola or morning porridge, you can get an easy iron boost. Meanwhile, if you prefer a hearty breakfast of eggs, add some spinach to your dish as a tasty and iron-rich ingredient.
Salads can be a great source of iron to help you increase your intake. Bulk your up with some legumes, leafy greens and quinoa for an iron-filled lunch that will leave you feeling full and satisfied.
Add a side of broccoli to your dish, as well as some leafy greens. Eat lean portions of red meat, turkey and shellfish to make sure you’re getting a sufficient amount of iron in your diet.
Getting help if you suspect an iron deficiency
After reading about the importance of iron, you can demonstrate effective self-care by seeking help if you think your iron levels are low. Book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible, who can identify the cause and recommend a treatment plan.
Practice better self-care by eating a better diet and make sure you get all of your essential nutrients to ensure a healthier lifestyle.