Iron is essential for transporting oxygen around the body. The below foods contain around 4–5mg iron.
Note that steak and mussels contain haem iron, which is more readily absorbed than the non-haem iron found in plant sources.
1/3 cup steamed mussels
7 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 1/4 cups cooked red lentils
grilled steak (125g when cooked)
7 slices heavy multigrain bread
Just 3/4 cup steamed spinach contains 4.5mg non-haem iron. This isn’t well-absorbed on its own, so add some vitamin C to your meal to boost the amount absorbed.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron is:
8mg for women aged over 50 and all men
18mg for women aged 19–50 years (although needs vary widely, especially if pregnant or lactating).
Haem iron – from meat and fish – is more readily absorbed than non-haem iron from plant sources. For this reason, it’s estimated vegetarians need to consume up to 80 per cent more iron in order to absorb the recommended amounts.
Boost your absorption
Foods containing vitamin C help the body absorb iron more efficiently. Include vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, kiwifruit, capsicum or broccoli to meals that include foods containing iron.
Some nutrients like calcium, zinc, phytates (found in wholegrains and legumes) and oxalates (in spinach and silverbeet) reduce iron absorption – another reason to include foods with vitamin C in your meal.
Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals as their polyphenols can also reduce iron absorption.