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Do You Know The First Signs Of Iron Deficiency

Do You Know The First Signs Of Iron Deficiency?

Running low on iron can cause a number of health problems such as:

  • Tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor stamina
  • Little ability to maintain physical work and exercise
  • Frequent infections
  • Feeling the cold more than usual
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hair loss
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Spoon nails

Those most likely to run low on iron are menstruating females, children under the age of two, teenage girls and vegetarian / vegans.

A blood test measuring the markers of iron – your serum ferritin (a measure of your body’s iron stores) will help your GP diagnose whether or not you have iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia. A serum ferritin level less than 15 mcg/L is highly specific to iron deficiency, however the Royal College of Pathology recommends adopting a cut off of 30mcg/L, with lower levels seen as abnormal in adults.

If you are found to have low iron levels and are diagnosed as iron deficient anaemic then oral supplementation is required, improving your diet will not get you to where you need to be.

If your iron levels are low but not necessarily deficient then you can attempt to build your levels back up via the consumption of iron rich foods daily.

Ensure that you are re-tested in 3 months to ascertain if your iron levels are increasing as necessary, if not it may be necessary to take a closer look at “the why”.

Foods For Iron

Food Amount Iron (mg)
Well-absorbed iron sources (haem iron)
Lean lamb, grilled 125g 6.8
Lean beef mince, cooked 125g 4.3
Lean beef sirloin, grilled 125g 3.9
Pork leg steak, grilled 125g 1.5
Salmon, canned, drained 125g 1.5
Chicken breast, skinless, roasted 125g 0.9
Bream, grilled 125g 0.6
Less Well Absorbed Iron Sources (non-haem iron)
Weetbix 2 biscuits 3
English spinach, cooked ½ cup 3.0
Muesli, natural ½ cup 2.3
Baked beans ½ cup 2.2
Milo powder 1 tbsp. 1.7
Egg, boiled Whole 1.1
Brown rice, boiled 1 cup 0.9
Wholemeal bread 1 slice 0.7
Dried apricots 6 halves 0.7
Peanut butter 1 tbsp. 0.5

Non-haem iron rich foods need a little help to make the iron within more available for absorption. Vitamin C from other vegetables eaten with the meal or via accompanying citrus fruit helps or a few small pieces of meat also help unlock the availability of iron in non-haem iron rich foods.

It’s also worth noting that eating your iron-rich foods with calcium-rich foods, fibre and phytate rich foods or tannin-rich drinks will decrease absorption of iron up to 20%.

Your Daily Requirements

 Per day, the required iron consumption levels are:

Toddlers (1 – 3 years old) 9mg
School Children (4 – 8 years old) 10mg
Girls and Boys (9 – 13 years) 8mg
Teenage Girls (14 – 18 years) 15mg
Teenage Boys (14 – 18 years) 11mg
Women (18 – 50 years) 18mg
Post-Menopausal Women 8mg
Men (18+) 8mg
Pregnant Women 27mg
Breastfeeding Women 9mg
Simpson, J., Ross, B. and De Malmanche, J. (2017) Iron Deficiency. How to Detect It and How To Correct It. Medicine Today.
NHMRC Australia & New Zealand 2006