Boosting your daily iron intakes
Iron is an essential mineral. It is needed to make healthy red blood cells which carry oxygen around our body and give us energy.
A recent survey in Ireland found that 42% of Irish women could be at risk of deficiency.
Women of child-bearing age require more iron than that of post-menopausal women and men. The recommendation for women is 14.8mg per day of iron and the requirement for iron increases during pregnancy.
Athletes, especially female athletes, can be at risk of iron deficiency.
The human body tries to increase iron absorption when stores are low, but if no iron is available through diet or supplementation you might develop iron deficiency anaemia.
Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional deficiency worldwide.
Symptoms include: tiredness, irritability, paleness, headaches and fainting.
If you need to boost your iron intakes, there are two types of iron found in foods which can help you do this: haem and non-haem iron.
Haem Iron is a type of iron that is easily absorbed and used by the body.
Sources include liver, beef, lamb, pork, chicken and oily fish such as salmon and sardines and mackerel.
Non-haem iron is another type of iron, of which only 5-15% is absorbed by the body.
It is found mainly in non-meat foods such as fortified breakfast cereals, broccoli, cabbage, peas, beans, lentils, eggs, dried fruits such as apricots and nuts.
Eating foods which contain vitamin C at the same time as eating non-haem iron helps it to be absorbed in the body better.
Non-haem iron is sensitive to tannins found in tea, coffee, cocoa and red wine.
These drinks can reduce your body's ability to absorb the iron.
If you are trying to boost your iron levels, try not to drink these at the same time as eating your main iron-rich meal.
High calcium foods such as milk, cheese or yoghurts could also reduce the amount of iron you absorb.
Phytates found in legumes such as beans and whole grains can also decrease absorption of non-haem iron.
Here are a few simple meal suggestions to boost your iron intakes:
* Poached eggs with mushrooms, grilled tomato and fruit juice.
* Tinned sardines in tomato sauce on wholegrain bread with a green salad
* Spiced beef & noodle stir-fry with mange tout and babycorn.