Am I getting enough iron?

This is a question I ask myself all the time. I went vegetarian as a teenager, and my Mum was very worried that I would not get all the nutrients I needed, so I started taking a multivitamin with iron, only I took it every other day as all the supplements gave you 100% RDA and I was sure that I got some. I have continued with this multivitamin “habit” into adulthood, and still take them every other day (and every day on holiday as I am sure my diet is much worse). I did used to give blood, as they always check your iron levels before you do it, and mine were always fine, so I was reassured that something I was doing was alright. (I don’t give blood any more as every single time they took the tube out of my arm I would faint- they even tried taking less blood and I still fainted so I am afraid I do not go any more).

Anyway, I have been reading Vegetarian Sports Nutrition , dipping into a chapter now and then, and was interested to read the chapter about boosting iron intake and absorption. Now I did know that iron from plant sources is harder for the body to absorb, but what I did not realise what that the RDA is 10 times what you actually need as iron is poorly absorbed by the body. Interesting. Now according to the book I need 18mg per day, and the book has a handy table with common iron sources in them. Now although my meals do vary, there are lots of things I eat every day, so anyway, I decided to have a look and see if I get enough iron without the supplement. It was difficult to work out as the measurements are all in cups, as oppose to grams, but it gave me a fair idea.

So- Breakfast- porridge- 1.6mg, raisins- 0.7mg = 2.3mg

Lunch- 2 slices wholemeal bread- 1.6mg.

Snacks- nuts- 1.2mg, cereal 2mg= 3.2mg.

Dinner- Lentils- 6.6g OR kidney beans 5.2mg OR tofu 6.7mg OR chickpeas 4.7mg, tomatoes 0.5mg.

So I have 7.1mg for breakfast, lunch and snacks, but I would not be getting 11mg from my dinner although on some days I would be close. Some vegetables are listed (eg squash between 0.9-1/4mg) and clearly there are sources of iron in other foods too. It did not list many fruits, but frozen raspberries contain 1.6mg iron, and I have some in my freezer and often add them to snacks. It also emphasised the need for some vitamin C to enhance the iron absorption (something I remember from my Home Ec GCSE!) and as I normally have roasted peppers in my sandwich, and eat a lot of tomato sauces for dinner I know I am getting enough to help the iron.

It also explained a little bit more about factors that inhibit iron absorption- I knew that tea could (and I normally have a cup of tea after my dinner), but there were a few other things listed (and in fact it said it was some herbal teas too, not just normal black tea), so it was nice to be made aware of other factors- for examply soya can inhibit the absorption, but the process of making it into silken tofu will lessen this effect.

 I found it really interesting to see the variety of sources. I did not realise tofu was such a good source of iron, and it was interesting to see the difference between certain legumes- for example black eye beans gave 3.6mg, whereas kidney beans 5.2mg, and chickpeas 4.7mg and lentils a whopping 6.6mg. This is going to encourage me to look for different recipes which will also give me the iron I need. I saw a lovely lentil recipe this morning, which I think I will have to try now. I think I still need to take the multivitamin, but at least I know that I am getting lots from natural souces. So I am interested to know how other people manage this. Do you keep an eye on your iron intake? Do you take supplements?

Now for the non-science bit!

I caved in and ordered the nakd bars! I was not going to, but then I worked it out, and £5 for 18 bars (when normally £5 would get you 8 bars) seemed too good to miss. Andy will eat the banana bread ones as I am not a fan, but I like all the others (and I love the apple pie ones). We are going through snack foods more quickly now we are both running more, so I am sure it will not take us long to eat them. Plus the freebie pixie left a couple of bars- double bonus!

Yesterday was a fab day- after breakfast I headed out on a run. I was going to do the 6 miles again, but the secret voice in my head was wondering if I could manage 8 miles (as that is what was on the plan). Although it was raining (and my waterproof jacket stopped being waterproof and my clothes turned into a sponge) I really enjoyed it. I avoided the muddy puddles and my new shoes were alright. So after running 10k, I decided to go on a little more. My Nike+ says I did 8.1 miles in 75 minutes, but that is way to fast for me so I think I must have done around 7.5 miles. Still, pretty good. I do seem to run better when I leave the display on the miles as oppose to the pace or time, so I am going to keep doing this. Then it was a rush as I had friends coming over so had a speedy shower and blow dry. We had a lovely day of catching up (and healthy nibbles of mini wholemeal pittas, peppers, cucumber, carrots, tzaziki, grapes, cherries and then some sugary fudge and brownie cupcakes), but by the evening I was really feeling the effects of my run! I did have some yummy pumpkin tofu pasta, but I still wanted some carbs before bedtime;

I randomly had 1/2 a pack of bear granola left, so I had that and then topped up the alpro (and a pear, and a bit of homemade choc pb) with some dorset chocolate granola. Can I just say there is no comparison? I love dorset mueslis and porridge, but the granola is really just oat pieces in a sugary coating. Can you see the size of the bear granola chunk? It was bigger than my teaspoon! That is what granola should be like!

Today I had a nice walk in the sunshine (this was an attempt to loosen my calf muscles which I clearly did not stretch enough yesterday oops), and attempted some kind of creation with my chickpea flour.

This (made 2 lots) was 50g chickpea flour, half a mashed banana, some water, vanilla and spices, baked in the oven. I was planning on adding date syrup, but I forgot. It was ok (and nice topped with choc pb) but I think I prefer the chickpea flour in savoury items. I think it has a funny aftertaste but I am not sure if I imagine it or not. I really must try using it as pizza dough as I think that would be lovely.

Currently I am being very civilised and enjoying some Earl Grey tea. Tis how we do it in England you know.

And I am looking forward to body pump tonight hooray! As I missed it last week I know it is going to be hard work, but I am looking forward to that in a weird way.

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14 thoughts on “Am I getting enough iron?”

  1. Really interesting info regarding the iron. I also read that runners have slightly higher iron needs as when you run little capilaries break and release a little blood especially in the feet. I take a vegan multi vit daily more for insurance than anything else as I do make an effort to eat a very varied and healthy diet. I did like that cosy earl gray, hope your liking it too, oh and I’m with you on the bear granola, its just the best!

    1. I read that about runners too actually 🙂 But the book said although your needs may be higher, your body would also adapt and get more efficient at absorbing the iron from foods.

  2. I take supplements, so don’t worry about it TOO much, but apparently even the supplements don’t really ‘work’ that well, so I should check…

    And LUCKY YOU with all those Nakd bars!! I’m jealous!! And how can you NOT like banana bread?! It’s one of my fave flavours!! Madness! 😛

  3. Interesting about the iron. I am concerned about getting enough and I was wondering if I might be anaemic. However, I give blood regularly and my haemoglobin level are always OK, so as you said I must be doing something right 🙂 I don’t feel ill when I give blood, but I am super slow as I have small blood vessels apparently.
    Well done on the run 🙂

  4. In terms of iron I don’t worry about it too much: I get blood tests regularly and have never been low in iron, but do take a multi-vit anyway and eat plenty of spinach, pulses, beans etc. Never knew that about the tofu though ~ very interesting. I am paranoid about calcium though as I have osteopenia, so try to get as many vegan sources of that as possible while drinking fortified non-dairy milks and taking additional calcium supplements.

    Fab news on the run! You’re back on form 🙂

    Yummy snacks as always ~ those Nakd bars wouldn’t last me long 😉


  5. Iron is the one thing I pay attention to now. When I got back into exercising I would do something, say a day from C25K running program and would be shattered for 3 or 4 days afterwards and it was really inhibiting me because it wasn’t a post workout tired but WAY more. At the point I was about to go see my doctor about it someone suggested taking iron for a while to see if it helped. I bought Spaton iron water (the best absorption rate of iron I believe is in liquid form & Spaton was recommended) and I took one a day for about 2 months until I didn’t feel sooooo tired after a workout. Now I take one every two or three days and am fine.
    I would say that unless you exhibited any iron deficient symptoms – I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

  6. Really interesting to see you writing about iron intake. I also got a lot of my info from that book, and it’s something I pay attention to on a daily basis now. I try and emphasise iron rich foods wherever possible, but I have also started taking a supplement, mainly to provide myself with a bit of a buffer. As a vegetarian my iron levels were always within the normal range, but right down towards the bottom. So as a vegan I decided to just supplement, to take the pressure off a bit.

    I hope you enjoyed body pump!

  7. Iron is a weird one, I always worry that I don’t get enough but then when I get tested my levels are on the high side! so it must be a personal thing too!

    Where did you find that nakd bar offer?


  8. I started taking an iron supplement in college as I was told that white spots that I get on my nails are signs of an iron deficiently. However I don’t think I’v remembered to take it in years! I do drink A LOT of tea, I wonder if this is inhibiting too much iron absorption.

  9. Thanks for the heads up on the nakd bar offer, I’ve just ordered some too 🙂 I almost got two sets hehe! That iron info was interesting too.. I’m thinking I probably don’t get enough actually…I also know vit C helps it to absorb so increasing that helps too

  10. I suppose the main reason why some people may be alright on a vegetarian diet is that actually we need say 2mg iron, but as it is absorbed poorly, the RDA is 18 mg, so in fact if you are “good” at absorbing iron, you would get enough. IF that makes sense? I think I will keep with the multivit just to provide a buffer, but I do prefer to get things from food so will continue to keep an eye.
    Rose- I got it from which is the nakd/trek website- you can order all sorts from there and postage is free. 🙂

  11. What youre saying is absolutely true. I know that everyone must say the very same issue, but I just consider that you fit it in a way that anyone can comprehend. I also enjoy the pictures you fit in here. They fit so nicely with what youre trying to say. Im sure youll achieve so numerous men and women with what youve got to say.

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