Do you get enough iron in your diet? Most vegetarians have healthy iron levels if they have a balanced diet with plenty of legumes, whole grains and vegetables. Iron levels in the body depend not only on how much iron is consumed in the diet, but also on the strength of the digestion. When digestion is weak, iron is one of the first nutrients that is poorly absorbed. Iron absorption is increased when iron rich foods are eaten with vitamin C rich foods such as vegetables. Some foods such as broccoli and silver beet are high in both Iron and vitamin C.
Symptoms of iron deficiency are anaemia, excessive menstrual blood loss, learning disabilities, headaches, dizziness, weight loss, poor immunity, and low energy levels. However there are many other causes for these symptoms.
(If you are unsure a naturopath or other health practitioner can help you analyse your diet and your symptoms. As it is possible (and not too uncommon for males) to have toxic levels of iron, it is important to have your levels assessed before taking a supplement. Symptoms of iron toxicity include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and weight loss - which are very similar to deficiency symptoms). In order to improve iron levels it is important to improve digestion, and check there are adequate amounts of iron consumed in the diet.
- First thing in the morning (before breakfast) drink a glass of warm water with juice from 1/2 of a lemon. (please note it is a good idea to brush your teeth after having lemon water).
- Use apple cider vinegar in a dressing on your salads
- Drink ginger tea 30 minutes before meals (a few slices of ginger root steeped or boiled for 5-10 minutes)
- Chew fennel seeds after meals
- Eat less at each meal and spend more time chewing your food
- Avoid eating late at night, eating on the run, and eating between meals
- Avoid drinking tea with meals - the tannins in black tea decrease the absorption of all nutrients
- sit in Vajrasan (kneeling) for 10 minutes after meals
If you eat a bowl of porridge with dates and soy milk, a handful of nuts and seeds, one banana, one serve of rice and lentils, and one cup mixed green vegetables you will easily meet your RDI for Iron.
Recommended Daily Intake* of Iron
Men 11-18 years 18mg
Men over 19 years 10mg
Women 11-50 years 18mg
Women over 51 years 10mg
oats, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, whole wheat, kelp, dates, millet, dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. silver beet), parsley and broccoli.
*RDIs from Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Elson M. Haas M. D. Celestial Arts, California, 1992.