RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—When you think of high-iron recipes, you may envision lots of red meat. But as we'll see, there are lots of other ways to include this crucial mineral in your meal plan. First, a reminder of why we need this essential nutrient in the first place: It's used by our bodies to form hemoglobin, the protein that helps red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. In addition, iron plays an integral role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Are you getting enough? Our daily requirement for iron is 18 milligrams. Men get approximately two-thirds of their iron needs met by heme iron (found in meat, fish, and poultry); this amount varies for women. (The other form of iron is nonheme iron, which comes from plant sources.) And the group that's most likely coming up short when it comes to iron is women—specifically women in their reproductive years. Roughly 30 to 80 percent of women are iron-deficient, according to studies. Anemia is more prevalent in premenopausal women due to blood loss during menstruation, and women with heavy menstrual flow are even more likely to become anemic. Other factors contributing to anemia in women include pregnancy and breastfeeding, which drain iron stores. Low dietary intake of iron or poor iron absorption can be causes, as well.
And there's new information for women on the iron front. A recent study suggests that active women should be sure to keep an eye on their iron levels. In a study of female U.S. soldiers, military combat training lowered the women's iron levels, but supplementing with iron not only helped build up their iron stores, it also improved their physical and cognitive performance levels. Even women getting more moderate levels of exercise should be careful to get their daily requirement for iron to ensure that all of the tissues in their bodies get enough oxygen to function optimally.
Published on: December 7, 2009
Updated on: March 11, 2010