Please DO NOT DELETE this page.

Blog //
  • Nutrition
//

Why iron is important

18 February, 2019
IronImportance

So you need to boost those iron levels, fast. Where do you start? First you’ll need to talk to a doctor, then you can start changing your diet.

Iron. Not just what burly people mine from the ground, but also a vital nutrient in the human body. It performs a number of important functions, most notably transporting oxygen in the blood. That’s why a deficiency in iron can cause symptoms like fatigue, decreased memory and decreased aerobic sports performance.

In this article we’re going to outline some quick ways to get iron back into your system, as well as discuss how to increase your iron absorption rate (which is the first step to increasing your levels).

However, before we proceed we must say that you should never self-diagnose iron deficiency. In too high doses, iron can be toxic. Please consult your doctor first if you’re worried about your levels - this is a general guide only.

How to increase iron absorption in your body

Sadly, iron isn’t magically absorbed into the body. Its absorption rate depends on your diet and the type of iron you’re consuming.

  • Fast tip: There are two types of iron - haem and non-haem. The former is generally found in meat and is more efficiently absorbed into the body. The latter can be found in plant-based products and is absorbed less efficiently.

These are some common ways to increase your iron absorption rate:

  • Add vitamin C to your diet: Vitamin C increases iron absorption, which makes it an ideal partner, especially for non-haem sources. “Pairing vitamin C with your meal gives non-haem iron a boost, upping its absorption,” nutritionist Cynthia Sass advised Everyday Health.
  • Cut back on tea and coffee: Tannins from tea and coffee interfere with iron absorption and should not be consumed within a few hours (before or after) iron-rich meals. Avoid chocolate too, as some cocoa has the same effect.
  • Space out iron intake: Sass went on to recommend Everyday Health readers to space out their iron intake, as the body can absorb more when consumed in several small doses instead of a single large one.

Ways to boost your iron levels

Adding the following foods into your regular diet can set you on your way to normalising your iron levels. To find out specifically how much you require each day, please consult your doctor.

Haem iron

Upward of 70 per cent of the iron found in meat products (outlined below) is haem iron, making these an effective source. The rest of the iron is non-haem.

We’ve ordered these ingredients from most iron to least, using Nutrition Australia's (NA) guidance:

  • Organ meats (e.g. chicken liver)
  • Red meat (e.g. beef and lamb)
  • Salmon
  • Pork
  • Chicken

Although not included in NA’s chart, oysters are also considered a great source of iron. If we added them to the above list, they would come in second place (based on data from the US Department of Agriculture).

Non-haem iron

This type of iron isn’t as efficiently absorbed, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. You just won’t absorb as much iron per serving as, say, a beef steak. Vegans, vegetarians and other non-meat-eaters may need to consume more servings of the below to get their levels up, although you should only make this decision after consulting your doctor.

From most iron to least, using guidance from NA:

  • Weetbix and All Bran - cereals like wheat, oats etc. are good non-haem sources
  • Kidney beans
  • Tofu
  • Chickpeas
  • Cooked wholemeal pasta
  • Cashews
  • Spinach
  • Dried apricot
  • Broccoli
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Wholegrain bread

Essentially, fortified cereals, dark-green leafy veg, beans and legumes, and dried fruits are all sources of non-haem iron.

What about supplements?

Iron supplements are available, in various forms (commonly pill, capsule or liquid). Due to their higher dosage and some of the potential side effects, you should only take iron supplements if you have been instructed to do so by a professional and given appropriate guidance.

And those are the basics! Iron levels can typically be brought back up to normal with a change in diet, even for those who avoid meat. You just have to consult a doctor first to ensure you are doing so safely.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999603/
  2. https://www.gesa.org.au/index.cfm//resources/patients/iron-deficiency
  3. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/iron-deficiency-adults
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355034
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793309/#B9-nutrients-10-00081
  6. http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/iron
  7. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/15168?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=15168&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=
  8. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/increase-iron-absorption#section1
  9. https://www.webmd.com/diet/iron-rich-foods#1
  10. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007478.htm
1911_CBHS Skyscraper Banner-07

Suggested Articles

  • AGM

    Advance Notice of Annual General Meeting and Director Nominations

    CBHS wishes to advise its members that the Annual General Meeting this year will be held on Thursday 5 November 2020 at the CBHS registered office, Level 5, 79 George Street, Parramatta, NSW 2150.
    • Membership
    7 July 2020
  • Slice of Eggs on Cakes

    Healthy snacking at home with CBHS nutritionist Chantal

    CBHS nutritionist Chantal Collins has eight tips for creating everyday healthy snacking habits that won’t undo your health and wellness goals.
    • Nutrition
    6 July 2020
  • Member Stories Jake and  Carol

    “You don’t wait when it’s to do with your children”

    When Carol and her son Jake both began experiencing the same cardiac issue, a second opinion with a world-leading doctor helped them find answers.
    • Membership
    22 June 2020
  • Member Stories Danielle

    When your world changes in one week, we’re here

    COVID-19 restrictions have forced many employers to let staff go. Danielle was one of the Australians left with no income, and wondering how to pay the bills.
    • Membership
    22 June 2020

What Our Members Think

I joined as a CBHS member in 1978. Through many health events and challenges CBHS has always been there for me and my family. Their exceptional service over this time has always been appreciated.

- Jenny J

What Our Members Think

I've not long joined CBHS from another fund, but so far I've been impressed by the super helpful and friendly staff, the higher claim limits and rebates at a very competitive premium, and how easy it is to lodge manual claims through the app. Thanks CBHS - you've won me over! 😃

- Jessica B

What Our Members Think

What I love about CBHS is their customer service - friendly staff and always ready to help and email you the information you ask about. Keep up the great work!!!

- Linda S

What Our Members Think

I love CBHS as its so so easy to lodge a claim and whenever i need a question answered friendly consultant is one phone call away. The phone back option instead of waiting is brilliant!

- Rachel N

What Our Members Think

I have been with CBHS since I began at CBA 15 years ago...Now I have three beautiful children, one who has a disability. Our top extras cover has been really essential for his early intervention. I do love the ease of claiming online.

- Annette E

What Our Members Think

I am relatively new to CBHS and am loving it already. I worked for a CBA subsidiary a long time ago but was still eligible to join. So much better that the for-profit funds - our premium is only a little more and we pay a lower co-contribution and get great benefits. I am loving the massage rebate for my partner and gym rebate for me!

- David G

What Our Members Think

I'm extremely happy with CBHS! I have been a customer for about six years. I think the price is reasonable. And i would refer you to my family and friends any day. Thank you CBHS!!!

- Karen W

What Our Members Think

Love CBHS as I never have to doubt that they've got my back when I need it. Been through other insurers who have limited options or limits, yet cost the same or more.

- Mark F

Prev
Next