Facts About Iron and Your Performance
Are you feeling tired and sluggish, have you noticed a decline in your performance lately? There could be a number of reasons for this, with one of them being a lack of iron. Iron is a mineral and is essential for good health and physical well-being. It is found in a variety of foods, including lean beef and lamb – the redder the meat the better.
Iron deficiency is especially prevalent among women, for a few different reasons. In an attempt to watch our waistlines as well as our health, women tend to avoid eating red meat. However, by steering away from what we think is bad for us; we could actually be ruining our health as well as our performance. This is largely because iron is responsible for red-blood cell formation.
Too little iron in the body can lead to low iron stores and iron deficiency known as anaemia. Symptoms include tiredness, poor appetite, irritability, and a lower attention span. If you are constantly tired or think you may have iron deficiency anaemia, please consult your doctor.
There are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron.
Heme iron is found in meat, fish and poultry and is well absorbed by our bodies. Non-heme iron is found in some vegetables, cereals, pulses, beans and fruit. It is poorly absorbed but when taken with vitamin C or heme iron, absorption will increase significantly. Iron has three main functions in the body:
1. To carry oxygen around the body in haemoglobin found in the blood
2. To ensure a healthy immune system. The cells that fight infection depend on adequate iron stores, if your iron levels are low, your body is prone to more infections.
3. Iron isessential for the production of energy in the body from nutrients
Sources of Iron:
- Dark green leafy vegetables.
- Fortified breakfast cereals.
- Dried fruits – dates, apricots, prunes.
- Blackstrap molasses.
Tips to help boost your iron intake:
- Eat lean red meat 2-3 times per week to ensure the maximum absorption of haem iron.
- Avoid drinking coffee or tea with your meal. The presence of tannin reduces the amount of iron we can utilize from food.
- Eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods (like fruit and vegetables) to assist the body with the absorption of non-haem iron found in plant foods (vegetables, pasta, rice, cereals, bread, pulses, such peas, beans and lentils and fruit)
- Eat lean red meat and vegetables together. Eat a combination of red meat and plant foods. This will assist the body with the absorption of non-haem iron by up to four times
- Beware of diets – Studies suggest that girls and women on low calorie diets often do not get their daily iron requirements. Lean beef, lamb and offal (e.g. liver) are relatively low in calories, yet high in iron. Choose low-fat cooking methods such as grilling of stir-frying and always drain or skim any excess fat, or blot with absorbent paper towels.
- Cooking in cast iron cook ware every so often rather than stainless steel.
- Keeping fit – You’ll need extra iron if you exercise often and strenuously. Ensure your diet is balanced and varied, including lots of food high in haem iron
Once you’re iron levels are back up to a healthy level, you’ll be amazed by the improvement in your performance as well as the increase in your energy level!