Over the years I have been proven to not be an Iron Man. I don't mean those athletes of superhuman strength and endurance that can swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then still run a full 26.2 miles marathon in less than the maximum allowed 17 hours. No, no. Clearly, I am not one of those.
I simply mean that over the years, my blood has spoken against me and stated my weakness that I am low in iron. It isn't a big deal. It is not "an issue". It has not been the thing that has prohibited my being a high performance anything. No. I just go through phases when I am a little more fatigued than normal, and a little more lightheaded than normal. That's all.
So what's a girl to do? Well one easy thing is to take a good iron supplement. For quick results, I've always liked Floradix or Floravital. Tastes good: works quickly. But for a more long-lasting, store-building-up kind of supplement, I go for the little green pills: Ferrous Gluconate. But don't listen to me about these thigs. Go talk to you doctor.
What I can tell you that I do as a general rule of thumb is to up the iron content in my menu. I know, I know, the richest dietary source of iron is Beef Liver. This will not be a post on how to cook Beef Liver. Just sayin'.
But here is the deal: While meat is clearly an excellent source of Iron (the Heme kind), don't forget to count the high iron foods in the vegetable world (the Non-Heme kind). For ideal absorption of the irons (Heme and Non-Heme) you should eat them together. So don't think you are getting the best iron by eating a steak if you aren't eating some leafy green vegetables with it. And don't think that only eating kidney beans is best. Throw some ground beef into your chili for maximum benefit.
Also, a trick with any iron intake is to make sure there is Vitamin C to go along with it to help your body absorb it. And also, to make sure there isn't a lot of caffeine to go along with it, because that will hinder the absorbtion. So if you drink a coffee with your Beef Liver, the iron ain't gonna help you as much as you hope.
So say you are wanting to eat less meat, but are worried about iron. Let's look at a completely "Non-Heme" iron day and see if we can get enough iron. Well, here might be a typical day's worth of food in my house and the approximate iron counts. "They" say that as a primarily vegetarian woman in my 30's I should be getting 33mg of iron a day. Let's see if we get there.
Let's say for breakfast I have a bowl (1 cup) of oatmeal (10 mg) with a banana cut up on it (.31mg) and a cup of blueberries thrown in (.41mg). I drink a little OJ with it for the vitamin C.
For lunch I have one of my favourite soups. In my bowl there is a cup of lentils (6.6mg) and 1/2 cup spinach (3.2mg) and a whole lot of tomatoes (at least .33mg) but they are there more for the vitamin C then the iron. I will probably have 2 slices of whole wheat bread as well (1.8mg)
Then for supper, I might have a vegetable stir-fry. 1 cup of Brown rice (1.0mg) 1 cup broccoli (1.2mg), 1 cup of bok choy (1.77 mg), a handful of snowpeas (2.46mg) and 1/2 cup tofu (3.4mg) with a handful of sliced almonds on top for crunch (1.05mg)
Grand total? 33.53mg. We did it! We met the vegetarian's daily recommended amount. If you are a woman who does eat meat frequently you only need 18mg of iron a day. Not too shabby.
Plus, think about all the other fabulous benefits to those foods! Low fat, high fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals...and DELICIOUS!!!
Now don't get me wrong. I would not turn away a piece of grilled chicken from my stirfry or a meat ball from my soup, but if you are looking to eat less meat more often but worry about the nutritional consequences, worry no more. I won't even bother to calculate out how much protein this day had. Or how few calories :-)
So enjoy your Beef Liver. I'll have an extra serving of Vegetarian Chili. (and then I'll have roast beef tomorrow just because it tastes good!) ;-)
(Awkward Disclaimer: Of course, just like I am not a doctor, I am also not a nutritionist. So if you are unduly fatigued or lightheaded or anemic, please go see your doctor. I can give you recipes for yummy, iron rich food: that's all!) :-)