It’s a common problem for women. And there are many reasons behind it. Perhaps you’re constantly on the go, too busy to eat properly, feeling stressed or living an overly active lifestyle. You can also thank Aunt Flow for taking a toll on your iron every month.
An iron deficiency isn’t something to take lightly. We can't just build a suit of armor to escape the unpleasantries. So to find out how to fight it, we caught up with holistic nutritionist and owner of nu roots nutrition, Samantha Peris.
What causes iron deficiency?
Causes for iron deficiency include acute blood loss, menstruation, poor digestion (low stomach acid makes it difficult to absorb dietary iron), frequent use of ant-acids (also some other over-the-counter and prescription drugs) and a diet low in iron-containing foods.
Why are women more susceptible to iron deficiency?
Women of childbearing ages (15-50) are more susceptible to iron deficiency because of their menstrual cycles (loss of blood every month), increased needs during pregnancy and blood loss during childbirth.
What symptoms should women be watching out for when it comes to an iron deficiency?
Symptoms include fatigue and weakness, decreased ability to concentrate, increased susceptibility to infections, hair loss, dizziness, headaches, brittle nails, apathy and depression. Ask your doctor for a serum ferritin test to find out if you're low in iron.
Can you provide some tips for boosting our iron that are easy to incorporate?
We all need to eat, so it’s easy to choose foods high in iron to eat on a regular basis. Some of my favourite sources include spirulina, a superfood algae that can easily be added to smoothies (1 tsp-1 Tbsp) and blackstrap molasses, which can be added to a cooked grain breakfast like steel cut oats, a homemade granola recipe or a smoothie (1 Tbsp).
Some spices are also high in iron, so add cumin or turmeric to savoury dishes, chilli, soups, stews, dips or curries. Be conscious to include foods containing Vitamin C (strawberries, oranges, raw red and green pepper or supplements) when eating foods high in iron. Twenty-five milligrams of Vitamin C may double iron absorption.
Also, adding lemon to water will help to boost stomach acid before a meal containing iron.
Try this iron-boosting recipe to help conquer a deficiency.
Old Fashioned Granola
Adapted from SLICE Health Inspired Food
Makes 10 to 12 servings
1 cup nuts, chopped (walnuts, almonds, cashew, pecans)
1 cup seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
1 cup oat bran for iron
½ tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine grain flakes, nuts, oat bran, seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk molasses, honey and/or maple syrup and butter/oil. Add the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir until combined.
3. Spread mixture evenly on an ungreased cookie sheed and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden, stirring every 10 minutes. When cool, add chopped dried fruit if desired.
4. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
5. Serve with dried or fresh fruit (Vitamin C will enhance iron absorption), nuts, yogurt, rice milk or almond milk and fresh ground seeds (flax, chia, sesame).