Local Leaders | Nutrition: Are you getting enough iron?

Iron-deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world – with one in three Australian women falling short of this crucial nutrient.

Why do we need it?

Jenelle Croatto

Jenelle Croatto

The main role iron plays in the body is in the formation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body to help our cells release energy. Iron is also essential for optimal brain and immune function.

Who is at risk of iron deficiency?

  • Women who are pregnant, or bleed heavily during menstruation
  • Infants, children and adolescents (iron requirements are higher during stages of growth)
  • Vegans and vegetarians (when a balanced diet is not consumed)
  • Those who are following a fad diet
  • Individuals who donate blood regularly
  • Those with gastrointestinal conditions that may cause blood loss and/or affect absorption of iron e.g. coeliac disease, ulcers, haemorrohids and inflammatory bowel disease

The symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, poor immune system and feeling light-headed.

If iron deficiency is suspected, it is always best to speak with your GP.

How can I pump up my iron intake?

The human body cannot manufacture iron, so it needs to be sourced from our diet.

Meat sources are best as they contain the ‘haem’ form of iron, which is readily absorbed by the body.  Rich sources include, lean red meat, poultry, pork and seafood.  Eggs also contain iron. 

Plant sources of iron are known as ‘non-haem’ sources and are less well absorbed. Iron rich options include legumes, nuts, iron-fortified cereals, leafy greens and wholegrains. To enhance the absorption of non-haem iron, team such foods alongside those rich in vitamin C, like fruits and vegetables.

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