Dr Emma Derbyshire from the Meat Advisory Panel opens up about the essential nutrient…

Around 25 per cent of women aged 19-64 aren’t hitting their recommended iron intake. Tired? Pale? You could be one of them…

Listen up, ladies…

Iron is a crucial element of haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. Less iron = fewer oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Monthly periods mean that iron is super-important for women. ‘It’s also important during pregnancy, to help support extra blood production for mum and baby and to transport oxygen from the lungs around the mother’s and baby’s bodies,’ says Emma Derbyshire of the Meat Advisory Panel.Iron deficiency can lead to a compromised immune system, increasing infection risk. In severe instances, it can lead to heart failure. In pregnancy it can increase the risk of complications and affect the development of the child, especially in terms of brain development.

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Are YOU deficient?

‘Typical signs include breathlessness, feeling tired and/or dizzy, headaches, looking pale and experiencing heart palpitations,’ says Emma.  Pregnant and craving ice cubes? Known as ‘pica’, this could also mean that you’re lacking iron.

How to iron up?

Women of childbearing age need around 14.8mg of iron per day. Although red meat has received its share of bad press lately, Emma explains that up to five portions canbe eaten weekly, providing a valuable source of absorbable iron.  Iron in plant-based foods isn’t absorbed by the body as well, so if you’re vegetarian or vegan, consider taking an iron supplement.

EAT:

Lean red meat, black pudding, liquorice, iron-fortified cereals, bread, nuts, seeds, eggs. To boost absorption, pair these with vitamin C-rich foods eg a handful of strawberries with your cereal.

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AVOID:

Consuming whole grains with iron-rich foods, as it can reduce absorption. Try to drink tea and coffee an hour before or after an iron-
rich meal.