Iron Rich Foods and their friend Vitamin C

Meat balls in tomatoes sauceHello!

I was talking a little bit about being tired and possibly low in iron. Iron tablets, in my opinion, are pretty awful to take. They are heavy and they upset my stomach. Also, iron tablets should only be taken under the supervision and advice of a Doctor. However, if you are feeling a little low and want to increase your iron levels, there is a lot you can do by changing up your diet. Food is medicine!

* Please though if you are worried about your iron levels get yourself checked out by a Doctor immediately and follow their advice. I’m not a Doctor, a Dietician or a Nutritionist, this is not intended as advice.

There are two kinds of iron available in food heme iron and non-heme iron (Source). Heme iron is much easier for our bodies to absorb and comes from animal sources such as meat fish and poultry (Source). Non-heme iron is still helpful, however, we generally get a lot less iron from these food sources. To increase the iron absorbed and help our body to absorb iron from these food sources it is always a good idea to consume foods high in Vitamin C at the same time (Source).

Some foods that are high in Vitamin C include Tomatoes, Citrus fruits and Capsicum just to name a few. So there are benefits to roasting tomatoes with your eggs or having a glass or Orange Juice with your bacon.

The good news is that there are really quite a lot of food sources which are iron rich or contain some iron from which we can benefit! There are also of course many food products now available that are fortified with iron, such as cereals and breads. However, my preference is always to eat less processed foods, but fortified foods are certainly a good option.

For a long a thorough list of iron rich foods check on the American Red Cross website. However, to name a few that score highly from heme sources – liver, mussels, oysters, steak, sardines and turkey (Source). Non-heme sources- spinach, beans, pumpkin seeds, broccoli and dried apricots (Source).

I’m hoping to put together a couple of recipes for iron rich meals for anyone who is interested. Might take me a few days, however, so stay tuned!

Have you ever used food as medicine? Have you ever suffered from low iron levels? How did you correct it? For the vegans and vegetarians out there do you find it difficult to obtain enough iron from your food? How do you manage it?

Jess xoxoxox

photo by: Luca Nebuloni

10 Responses to Iron Rich Foods and their friend Vitamin C

  1. Jess, you can get labs, (CBC, serum iron, and B-12) that will tell you where you are at with all this. In my opinion, these will give you an exact answer, and then you can proceed with actual knowledge.

    • Thanks Dr J, I had my labs done. I am low in iron and there are some other results too which I will share in a future blog post shortly. Thanks for your opinion 🙂 You’re right labs and actual knowledge really are the best way to proceed.

  2. I have done the low iron thing, quite seriously. I was eating a pretty low-meat diet and donating blood quite frequently. I think the latter really tipped me over the edge.

    To fix things up, I started taking a supplement – which I actually did OK with, as long as I was running I didn’t suffer too many of the negative effects. I also became conscious of my iron intake (although still didn’t/don’t really eat red meat, liver, or oysters), and started cooking in a cast iron skillet. With this multi-pronged attack, I was able to increase my levels to normal range.

    These days, I continue the above measures regularly, except the iron pills. However, when I’m feeling a familiar heaviness in my legs, fatigue, etc. for a week or two, I will take a short course of iron, every other day for a few weeks, to boost my levels. I don’t recommend that someone start dosing without a doc’s supervision, but my levels have always tested within normal range since I started this regimen. Just my experience/two cents!

    [Also, avoid combining iron rich foods with calcium, which inhibits absorption. Those iron rich fortified cereals may be doing even less, if you’re eating them in a bowl of milk.]
    Holly @ Run With Holly recently posted…Fortunately/Unfortunately (Nov. 26, 2013)My Profile

    • Thanks for the information Holly. It sounds like you really figured out how to manage it properly and effectively! I really can’t stomach the iron tablets, although I’ve had to in the past. This time the Doctor is hopeful that dietary changes will be adequate, but I have to have a follow up test to see.

  3. I had low iron last spring. I did try to add more iron rich foods into my diet, but I also took iron supplements for 3 months on the advice of my doctor. The one I took said “Gentle Iron” on the label and I don’t recall being bothered by it. I do recall that it only took a few days for me to start feeling better – it was such a relief! Hope you are feeling better.
    JavaChick recently posted…Hey! It’s December.My Profile

    • I’ll have to ask my Doctor about a gentler supplement. I just really struggle with those big iron tablets. Good to know you felt better quickly!

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