Iron is a very important mineral as it helps your body to make haemoglobin, also known as Hb, which is the protein found in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen around your body.
Low iron levels cause low haemoglobin levels, which in turn could make you feel fatigued, and if your iron levels are severely low, you could end up feeling weak and breathless. This is known as anaemia.
You can usually take in enough iron through your diet. It’s found in lots and lots of foods, but you need to make sure to eat enough of it as it is not easily absorbed by the body.
Low iron levels could be caused by not eating a wide and varied diet – for example, vegetarians and vegans need to take extra care to ensure that they take in enough iron, as it is not easily absorbed from non-meat sources. Women and girls with heavy periods are also more susceptible to low iron levels, due to heavy blood loss, and individuals suffering with blood loss due to an operation could also suffer with anaemia.
Usually, just eating a varied and balanced will be enough to ensure that you have an adequate iron intake – eating the foods below should ensure that your iron intake is adequate.

High Iron Foods
  • Lean red meat, such as beef, veal or numerous types of game
  • Poultry such as turkey or chicken
  • Liver is rich in iron – however, pregnant women should not consume liver because it contains high levels of vitamin A
  • Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, pilchards or sardines, canned or fresh
  • Breakfast cereals, especially cereals that have been fortified with iron
  • Pulses and beans, such as chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans
  • Eggs – however, you should limit yourself to one a day because of the amount of cholesterol in them
  • Brown rice, wholemeal pasta and wholemeal bread
  • Tofu
  • Peanut butter, or other nut butters such as almond butter or soybean butter
  • Nuts such as brazil nuts, almonds and walnuts
  • Dried fruits, particularly fruits such as currants, raisins and dried apricots
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, dark green cabbage and rocket

Vitamin C is thought to help your body absorb iron, and so if you are a vegetarian, taking in plenty of vitamin C as well should help your body to absorb the iron. Here are some foods that are rich in vitamin C:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables (this is a bonus, as they contain iron and vitamin C, meaning you only need to eat one foodstuff to get all of the iron you need)
  • Kiwi fruits
  • Chilli peppers and bell peppers
  • Fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme or coriander
  • Papayas
  • Oranges, lemons, limes, clementines and grapefruits
  • Strawberries

Be sure to avoid tea when you are trying to up your iron levels. Tea is thought to reduce the amount of iron that you can absorb and make it more difficult for your body to absorb iron, so if you must drink it, try to limit it to a couple of cups a day in between meals, not with meals. Or opt for caffeine free tea
If you are trying to get pregnant or if you are preparing for an operation, make sure you take in plenty of iron by eating a wide, varied diet so that you stay healthy throughout pregnancy or following your operation. Most people will be able to get the amount of iron they need through their diet, but if you are eating a balanced diet and are still suffering with symptoms of anaemia, it’s worth speaking to your doctor about taking iron supplements.

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