Why iron is the multi-tasker you need for good health
We unpack what iron is and does and explain why it is essential for your health.
What iron does
Iron is one of many vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are crucial to good health.1
As well as helping oxygen move from your lungs to the rest of your body, iron also helps your muscles to store oxygen (via myoglobin).2 All of which is necessary to support the multi-tasking lifestyle of many Australian women.
Iron is not a set-and-forget mineral that can be taken for granted. You need to consume iron regularly as part of a normal healthy diet, with the amount you need dictated by your gender, stage of life, general health and lifestyle.
It is recommended that pregnant women consume 27mg of iron per day.3 Women in their reproductive years (18 mg) need more than post-menopausal women. Men generally need less iron than women (8 mg).3The table below provides an approximate guide of how much daily recommended iron is required for adults.
|Age||Recommended Daily Intake3|
|Females 19-50||18mg per day|
|Female 51+||8mg per day|
|Males 19+||8mg per day|
|Pregnant & lactating women||Recommended Daily Intake3|
|All pregnant women||27mg per day|
|Lactating women, 19-30 years||9mg per day|
Types of iron
Iron can be found in a broad range of everyday food types, including meat, vegetables, pulses, grains and fortified foods.
Iron comes in two forms – haem iron and non-haem iron.2
Haem iron can come from meat, chicken and fish and is the easiest to absorb. The redder the meat, the higher the iron content. Non-haem iron can come from eggs and plants. Other good sources include, pasta, bread, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, pulses and green leafy vegetables.2
If you want to maximise your intake of iron from the foods on your plate, consider including food high in vitamin C in your diet as this may help with absorption. Avoid drinking tea or coffee with your meal as caffeine and tannins can reduce iron absorption.2
Some women are more likely than others to experience iron deficiency. But the good thing is that iron deficiency is usually easy to treat. A challenge, however, is that you won’t always have symptoms.2 So, speak to your GP about a blood test if you’re concerned. For example, if you’re pregnant, have heavy periods, are a teenaged girl, have a restricted diet or play elite-level sport.
Your doctor can make a definitive diagnosis and will advise you on the best course of action. If you’re diagnosed with iron deficiency, management may include dietary changes or a therapeutic oral iron supplement such as Ferro-grad C®.
- Ahmed F et al. Iron status among Australian adults: findings of a population based study in Queensland, Australia. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17(1):40-47.
- Gastroenterological Society of Australia. Clinical update – Iron deficiency; 2015.
- Pasricha SS et al. Diagnosis and management of iron deficiency anaemia: a clinical update. Med J Aust. 2010;193:525-532.