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Five Tips to Maximize Your Iron Intake

February 05, 2015 2 min read

You know the importance of pumping iron, but are you consuming enough iron?  According to the USFDA, our recommended daily intake for iron is 18mg and 27mg if you are pregnant or nursing.  Endurance athletes, such as runners, as well as those who perform high intensity interval training are the most vulnerable to iron deficiency, women in particular.  The reason for this is due to greater amounts of iron due to sweat loss and the repetitive impact caused by distance training.
I can attest to this!  One summer about 7 years ago, when running was all that I really did to stay active, I started experiencing extreme fatigue during runs that should have been particularly easy for me.  I got to the point where I could barely run 3 miles without feeling extremely exhausted.  I loved running (and still do) so fatiguing so quickly was also extremely frustrating.  Initially I though maybe I was dehydrated, so I increased my water intake.  Upon doing some more research, I thought maybe it could be an iron deficiency.  I wasn't much of a meat eater at that point in my life, so I gradually started to incorporate more meat and also spinach into my diet.  Ironically enough this was around the same time we started juicing so I was loading my body with the vitamins and minerals that it needed.  Always listen to your body and if you think you might be deficient in iron, try incorporating more of the following foods into your diet :  Liver, Oysters, Chickpeas, Iron-fortified Cereal, Pumpkin Seeds, Soybeans, Beans, Lentils, Cooked Spinach, Sesame Seeds.
  Five Tips to Maximize Your Iron Intake Getting the iron you need isn’t just about eating iron-rich foods. A few tricks can help you get the most iron from your diet. Here are five to put on your radar:
  • Know that heme iron (think red meat, fish and poultry) is absorbed by your body two to three times more efficiently than non-heme iron sources. Yet if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you don’t have to give up your lifestyle. “But you will have to plan your meals more carefully,”says Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., RD, CSSD, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington.
  • Consume iron-rich foods (and iron supplements) with vitamin C–rich foods to increase absorption, Pritchett says. For instance, eat an orange with cereal or add bell peppers to chicken stir-fry.
  • Cook foods in cast-iron pots to increase absorption.
  • If you drink coffee or tea, avoid sipping these drinks at meals, consuming them instead between meals. “Coffee and tea don’t allow the body to absorb iron as well,” Pritchett says.
  • Calcium-rich foods also compete for iron absorption, so it’s best not to eat foods with iron in the same meal as yogurt, milk and other dairy products.

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