*[Image Goes Here]* Dietitians are always advising people to follow Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating. We do this to help ensure you are providing your body with essential vitamins and minerals. Not doing so can lead to nutrient deficiencies. In Canada iron–deficiency anemia is very common.
Iron is a vital nutrient that helps builds red blood cells & carries oxygen throughout your body. This oxygen is used to release energy from the food that you eat, help you grow, move, breath and make your heart beat.
It is a fact that many Canadians do not eat enough iron-rich foods which can lead to a deficiency of iron and eventually anemia. Iron deficiency anemia can make you feel tired, irritable and lower your attention span. In children, low iron levels can also result in lower learning ability and depressed growth. Iron deficiency is also common in both male & female athletes.
Children and pregnant women need iron to help build new body tissue. Teenage girls and women need more iron than men to replace iron lost through menstruation.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the daily intake you should strive to achieve. Check out the website www.beefinfo.org/bh_iron.cfm to find out your RDA for iron. Important to note, recommended intakes for vegetarians are almost twice as much as for those who do eat meat – multiply your RDA by 1.8.
*[Image Goes Here]* Only some iron in food is absorbed well by the body. Heme iron, found in meat, poultry and fish is better absorbed by the body so you don’t have to eat as much. Non-heme iron, found in vegetables, fruit, grains and eggs is not absorbed as well so you have to eat more. For example, your body absorbs four times as much iron from a 90 gram serving of beef sirloin steak (cooked) than from a 175 mL serving of bran flakes.
Important sources of heme iron: beef, organ meats (liver, kidney, heart), lamb, pork, veal, turkey & chicken (dark meat), fish and seafood.
Important sources of non-heme iron: dried fruits (raisins, apricots), whole-grain cereals, enriched cereals and pasta, dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, chard, kale), legumes, lentils, dried peas or beans.
Certain foods can enhance the body’s ability to absorb non-heme iron. These include meat, poultry, fish and foods rich in vitamin C like oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, cantaloupe or potatoes. Try a glass of orange juice with a bowl or oatmeal cereal or add meat to your bean chili.
Some components in tea and coffee can limit the amount of iron your body can absorb from foods with non-heme iron. To a lesser extent, oxalates in spinach or phytates in whole grains can also limit the amount of iron your body can absorb. Avoid drinking coffee or tea with your meal. If eating spinach or whole grains, eat an iron-enhancing food with it such as strawberries.
If you have concerns that you or your child are not getting enough iron from your diet, it is important to speak with your medical doctor or registered dietitian before taking an iron supplement.
Follow Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and follow the points given above to help increase your intake & absorption of iron rich foods.
Information adapted from the Beef Information Centre and the National Institute of Nutrition.
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