Did you know that women need more iron than men?
The mineral iron is vital for healthy blood and normal growth and development. Due to monthly blood losses women need more dietary iron than men (14mg compared to 10mg). This is of concern because in 2001 a dietary survey carried out in Ireland found that 48% of Irish women aged 18-50 years had inadequate iron intakes with 1 in 3 Irish women having adequate iron stores, and 1 in 30 having iron deficiency anaemia.
Eat up your reds - as well as your greens
It is not just the quantity of iron in our diets that counts because there are different types of iron in different foods. The one present in meat is absorbed much more easily than the one in fruit vegetables and cereals.
Red meat is one of the best sources of easily absorbed iron - it can be absorbed up to seven times more easily than iron in vegetables, cereals, fruits or nuts. Meat, eaten at the same meal, can help to increase the absorption of iron from vegetables, cereals, fruits and nuts. A good source of vitamin C (e.g. orange or grapefruit juice) can also help to promote the absorption of iron from these foods. Therefore, to boost your iron intake, try to include rich sources of iron (e.g. beef, pork or lamb) in your diet three to four times per week. Also, be clever about how you combine your foods at mealtimes to make the most of the less well absorbed iron.
The tasty way to increase your iron intake
- To boost your intake of iron, put a slice of lean beef, pork or lamb with a salad into pitta bread. The meat will not only add iron to the snack but will help to increase your absorption of iron from both the salad and bread.
- Add lean beef, pork or lamb to a vegetable stir fry and you will increase your absorption of iron from the green vegetables.
- Take orange juice with your breakfast cereal, or fresh grapefruit as a starter. They will help to increase the absorption of iron from your meals.
- Eat a 3-4 oz serving of lean beef, pork or lamb three to four times a week. Other rich sources of iron include liver*, kidneys and black pudding.
- Combine meat and dark green vegetables in meals, e.g. lamb casserole with broccoli, bacon and spinach quiche.
- Add a few slices of black pudding and a tomato to your sausages and rashers when having a mixed grill or an Irish breakfast.
- Stuff vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cabbage leaves and aubergines with tasty minced beef, pork or lamb.
- Use leftover cooked beef, pork or lamb in tasty salads, e.g. beef, broccoli and kidney bean salad.
- As a snack, try paté on wholemeal bread.
- Have baked beans or peas as your vegetables with some meals during the week.
* Pregnant women should not eat liver because of its high vitamin A content.