Iron is an important mineral for our bodies, which is vital for physical and mental health, and well-being. It helps to carry oxygen in the blood, maintain a healthy immune system and produce energy. That is why if you are low in iron you feel tired and lethargic, may struggle to fight off colds or infections, and may have difficulty concentrating.
Women and teenage girls tend to be more affected by low iron than men and boys. One in 14 women over the age of 15 will fail to meet their recommended daily intake of iron. The amount of iron required to meet the recommended intake depends on the total iron intake and the ability of the body to absorb and use the iron from the food.
There are two types of iron in food; Haem iron is found only in meat and fish. Non-haem iron is found mainly in plants, but is also present in meat. The body absorbs and uses haem iron a lot more easily than non-haem iron, which is why you hear that you need to eat a massive plateful of spinach to get the same amount of iron as you would from a normal sized steak.
There are ways that you can help boost iron absorption, especially the non-haem type. One of the easiest ways is to include vitamin C rich foods with your meals. Heat reduces vitamin C content so salads or salsas that use vitamin C rich foods are a great option, or consider making salad dressings that include juice from citrus fruits. With BBQ season just around the corner these make a great accompaniment to a juicy steak or barbecued vegetables. Foods rich in vitamin C include kiwifruit, capsicum, citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, feijoas and tamarillos. Here is a quick and easy recipe for a vitamin C rich salsa to go with your next BBQ.
2 green and/or golden kiwifruit
½ red capsicum, chopped
¼ red onion, finely diced; or 1 spring onion, finely sliced; or 2 Tbsp. chopped chives
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped mint
2 tsp. lemon or lime juice
Pinch of salt and pepper
Peel the kiwifruit and dice into 1cm cubes then combine in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Stir carefully so as not to mash the kiwifruit. Serve as a side dish with your next BBQ.
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