ABOUT

IRON DEFICIENCY REMAINS AN ONGOING ISSUE FOR MANY NEW ZEALANDERS, WITH MANY UNAWARE THEY HAVE DEFICIENT LEVELS.

The last New Zealand adult nutrition survey revealed iron deficiency has more than doubled in the 12 years, with low iron levels evident in one in 14 adult women over 15 years old.  Further, 8 out of 10 toddlers are not meeting the recommended daily intake of dietary iron and 14% of children under 2 are deficient.

 

In recognition of this challenge Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) is pleased to facilitate World Iron Awareness Week commencing 24 August, 2020. The aim is to raise awareness amongst consumers on the importance of dietary iron, recognising the signs of a low iron status and what they can do about it.

 

 

WHO NEEDS IRON?

Iron is a mineral essential for good health and wellbeing. It helps carry oxygen to the brain and muscles, keeping us physically and mentally strong and able to make energy and fight infections. Every cell in the body needs iron. There are certain instances when iron is particularly important. People who have higher iron needs include: 

 

 

  • Infants, children and teenagers because they are growing rapidly

  • Pregnant women for increased blood levels and to build baby's iron stores

  • Girls and women who have periods, due to regular monthly blood loss

  • Athletes and very active people

  • People on restricted or fad diets

 

WHY DO WE NEED IRON?

Iron is a mineral essential for good health and wellbeing. It can be found in some foods and has three main roles:

  • TO CARRY OXYGEN AROUND THE BODY - every cell in the body needs oxygen. There is iron in the haemoglobin of red blood cells and it carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of the body.

  • TO ENSURE A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM - the cells that fight infection depend on adequate stores of iron. This means if your iron stores are low, your body is more prone to infections.

  • FOR ENERGY - iron is essential for the body’s chemical reactions that produce energy from food. Therefore, if your iron levels are low, your body may not be able to use all the energy available.

 

COULD YOU BE SHORT OF IRON?

The symptoms of iron deficiency are commonly associated with a ‘busy lifestyle’ or ‘a bug’. If you can tick any of these boxes you may be short of iron.

  • Feel tired or lethargic

  • Often irritable or grumpy

  • Suffer frequent infections

  • Feel the cold

  • Tire easily

  • Can’t concentrate

 

AM I IRON DEFICIENT?

If you are suffering one or more of the symptoms outlined under the iron deficiency tab, you could be low in iron. The only way to find out for sure if you are iron deficient is to go to your doctor and get a blood test. You should be aware there are several different tests for iron status.

The first of these is haemoglobin, which effectively measures circulating amounts of iron. Haemoglobin does not reflect your long-term iron stores. For that, you need a serum ferritin test. It is possible to have normal haemoglobin levels, but low storage (ferritin) iron. Transport (transferrin) iron is another important indicator, which measures the amount of iron supplied to the bone marrow.

 

RECOMMENDED DIETARY INTAKE OF DAILY IRON

  • Infants 0-6 months: 0.2mg

  • Infants 7-12 months: 11mg

  • Children 1-13 years: 8-10mg

  • Boys 14-18 years: 11mg

  • Girls 14-18 years: 15mg

  • Women 19-50 years: 18mg

  • Pregnant Women: 27mg

  • Breastfeeding Women: 9-10mg

  • Women over 50 years: 8mg

  • Men over 19 years: 8mg

WHERE IS IRON FOUND?

Haem iron foods: Beef, lamb, liver, kidney, pork, venison, poultry, mussels and oysters.

 

Non-haem iron foods: Bread, breakfast cereals, beans and lentils, eggs, nuts, fruit and vegetables.

 

The body absorbs haem iron more easily, with about a quarter being used and absorbed.  Only about 5% of non-haem iron is absorbed.

 
 

POSSIBLE SYMPTOMS OF IRON DEFICIENCY

The symptoms of iron deficiency are commonly associated with with a busy lifestyle.  If you or your child is experiencing any of the following, you or they may be short of iron:

 

  • Feeling tired or lethargic

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Often irritable or grumpy

  • Developmental delay and learning difficulties

  • Feel the cold

  • Impaired immunity (suffer frequent infections)

  • Reduced appetite

  • Deterioration in athletic performance due to decreased aerobic capacity

  • Long-term iron deficiency leads to anemia with more severe symptoms

 

10 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR

IRON INTAKE

Fatigue, lethargy, frequent infections and reduced resistance to cold. It may surprise you that these symptoms are often caused by iron deficiency and can be easily avoided by increasing your iron intake. If you have ongoing concerns about your health, you need to see your GP, or for tailored nutrition advice, see a Dietitian or Registered Nutritionist. 
 
 
Follow these ten simple steps to make sure your daily intake is adequate:

EAT RED MEAT AND VEGETABLE TOGETHER

Eat a combination of red meat and plant foods (vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, fruits). Eating meat with plant foods will also help the body absorb more of the non-haem iron by up to four times. Examples of iron-rich meals include meat and vegetable stir-fry, a meat sauce with pasta and vegetables, or a lean meat and salad sandwich.

 

GET PLENTY OF VITAMIN C

Vitamin C helps the body to absorb non-haem iron from a meal – the type of iron found in plant foods and a proportion of animal foods. Include plenty of fruit and vegetables with your meals that are a good source of vitamin C (e.g. capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato and citrus fruits).

 

NOT ALL IRON IS EQUAL

There are two types of iron in food: haem iron (found in red meat, poultry, seafood) and non-haem iron (found in both plant and animal foods). The body absorbs the haem iron in animal foods more efficiently than the non-haem iron in plant foods. For example 1 cup of cooked silverbeet contains 0.4mg of iron, but the body can only use about 5-12% of this. In comparison, 120g of cooked lean beef rump contains 3.5mg of iron and the body absorbs around 15-25% of it. You would need to eat a massive 19 cups of cooked silverbeet to get the same amount of absorbable iron provided by a serve of 120g of lean beef rump steak. Both provide a third of a women’s daily absorbable iron needs. Other examples for an iron boost include a moderate serving of spaghetti bolognaise or a couple small lamb leg steaks.

 

SEE RED

Red meats are generally richer in haem iron than white meat, poultry and fish, with the redder the meat often having the higher iron content. The Ministry of Health suggests adults can have up to 500g of cook, lean red meat per week.

KEEP YOUR MEALS TANNIN FREE

It is better to drink tea and coffee between meals, rather than with your meals. The tannins in tea, and to lesser extent coffee, reduces the amount of iron we can absorb from food.
 

BEWARE OF DIETING

Studies show girls and women on restricted or low calorie diets generally miss out on getting enough of their daily iron requirements. Lean red meat is relatively low in calories, yet high in iron and protein, and can be included as part of an overall healthy and balanced diet.

 

EXTRA IRON FOR EXERCISE

You need extra iron if you exercise strenuously and often. Have your iron levels checked regularly and ensure your diet is balanced and varied, including lots of foods high in haem and non-haem iron. For those who do not eat meat include a combination of lentils, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds regularly (with vitamin C where possible).

 

DON'T RELY ON SUPPLEMENTS

Iron supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. In the long term, food is the safest and healthiest way to maintain iron levels. Frequent use of iron supplements may reduce the absorption of zinc, copper and calcium, increasing the risk of deficiencies.

 
CHOOSE FROM THE FOUR MAIN FOOD GROUPS

Eating a variety of foods is the best way to get enough iron. Choose foods from each of the main food groups to ensure you have enough iron each day: fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, dairy products and red meat, fish, chicken and/or protein alternatives (e.g. beans, lentils, eggs or tofu).

BE EXTRA IRON SMART IF YOU'RE AT RISK

Infants, girls and women who have periods, teenagers, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, sports people, vegetarians and the elderly are most at risk of being iron deficient. Learn how to cook appealing, iron-rich dishes to suit you and your family. Here are some ideas to get you started www.recipes.co.nz
 

 

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