Iron is important for making haemoglobin in our red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body and into our tissues. Iron is also found in muscle cells as myoglobin. You also need iron to support your immune system.
Women younger than 50 need 14.8mg a day, while men and women older than 50 need 8.7mg a day. Women of child bearing age need more iron than men due to menstruation, pregnancy and breast-feeding.
If your body does not get enough iron, you would not have enough haemoglobin for your body to function normally. This leads to iron deficiency anaemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia include fatigue, feeling weak, pale skin, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, headache, sore tongue, hair loss and mouth ulcers.
Iron from animal sources (haem iron) is more easily absorbed by the body, and the usual recommendation for those who have low iron levels is to eat red meat. However, not everyone is a meat lover and has difficulty finding other iron rich options to eat. You can increase the absorption of non-haem iron from plant sources by eating them together with a source of vitamin C. Having a glass of orange juice, a kiwi, bell peppers or broccoli along with a plant based high iron meal makes sure that iron absorption from the gut is facilitated.
Good animal-based sources of iron include red meat, fish and shellfish, liver or liver pâté (avoid during pregnancy), and eggs. Plant-based sources of iron include dried fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, chickpeas, and beans.
In this recipe book I have included 50 healthy iron rich options for main meals and a few snacks to ensure that you reach your daily iron requirements from the food you eat. Each recipe contains at least 5mg of iron. You will find a list of ingredients, and step by step, easy to follow instructions for each meal. I have also included the nutritional information, including calories, macros and iron for each meal to help you keep track of your daily intake. You will also find tips for food swaps and different ways of preparing the meals, which is handy if you suffer from intolerances or wish to try out different versions of the same meal.