Are you in a constant state of mental and physical exhaustion? If so, the underlying cause could be lack of a vital mineral.
Iron plays an essential role in the health and vitality of many bodily functions. It is an important component in the production of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. If there is lack of adequate iron, your muscles and tissues won’t receive the necessary oxygen they require to function effectively, leading to chronic fatigue symptoms such as weakness, lethargy and sleepiness. Likewise, symptoms such as pale skin, shortness of breath, headaches/dizziness, hair loss, cold hands/feet and restless leg syndrome could also be good indictors that iron deficiency is the culprit to your fatiguing woes.
Below are five iron-clad ways to boost your levels:
- Meat-based protein
Heme-iron, is a form of dietary iron which can only be found in meat-based protein. Excellent sources include red meat, poultry, seafood and fish, with red meat containing the highest levels. Other high sources of heme-iron-rich foods include beef, shrimp, sardines, lamb, venison and oysters.
- Plant-based foods
Non-heme iron, the second form of dietary iron, can only be found in plant-based foods such as beans, broccoli, spinach, nuts and dried fruit—like apricots and fortified grains. Although absorbed at a much slower pace than heme-iron, incorporating a vitamin C source alongside these veggies, will significantly assist in the absorption of iron. Complement your spinach salad with a glass of orange juice; toss some tomatoes with broccoli or simply chew a vitamin C tablet before or after your meal.
- Java jolt
Limit your caffeine consumption by one to three hours before or after eating an iron-rich meal. Caffeine, whether coffee, tea or cola, can interfere with the absorption of this essential mineral, so it’s best to keep track of your Americano’s throughout the day, as not to inhibit its energizing effects on the body.
- Cast-iron cookware
Cooking your meal in a cast-iron pot can absorb some of the iron molecules that seep out during the heating process, thereby increasing your iron intake. Foods high in acidity, such as tomato sauce tend to absorb the greatest amount of iron from this type of cookware.
- Iron supplements
Iron tablets are a good way to stabilize your iron levels, especially if you’re not getting enough from your diet. These supplements are usually taken on an empty stomach for better absorption, along with vitamin C intake, which can assist with getting the most out of this mineral. See your doctor to determine what iron supplement regimen is best for you.
*Side note: Iron supplements may cause constipation, so drink plenty of water throughout the day and increase your fibre intake!
Daniela is a fitness and extreme sports enthusiast, food adventurist, coach, lifestyle model and writer. She aims to inspire positive change and writes articles on fitness, health, lifestyle and personal development at Dee-Vita Reflections.