(By Crystal Hughes) – Boost your iron with some simple tips.
Did you know that approximately 20 percent of women have inadequate iron levels? Common symptoms of low iron include fatigue, weakness, headaches, brittle nails, hair loss, dizziness, and shortness of breath. If you have some of these symptoms, there is a simple blood test to check your iron levels through your doctor.
So what causes low iron levels? A diet low in iron-rich foods, chronic blood loss from menstruation or other health problems, pregnancy, and vigorous exercise are some of the causes. Some women also become iron deficient if they are unable to absorb iron effectively. Lastly, 40 percent of vegetarians and vegans may be iron deficient.
If you do have an iron deficiency, there are simple ways to boost your iron levels so you can start to get your mojo back.
Eat iron-rich foods
There are two types of iron. Heme iron is from animal proteins like beef, chicken, clams, and oysters. Non-heme iron comes from plant-based proteins like lentils, kidney beans, peas, nuts, and white beans. When you are eating non-heme iron proteins, you need to add vitamin C to help with absorption. If you live a plant-based lifestyle like myself, you want to make sure you are eating a diet rich in non-heme iron protein sources paired with vitamin C from other fruits and vegetables to help with absorption, like this gorgeous white bean dip and veggie plate.
Some people tolerate any form of iron, but many experience stomach upset and nausea. If this is the case with you, opt for whole food sourced iron supplements on the market. When taking iron supplements, stay away from coffee, dairy products, and fiber-rich meals for best absorption. Taking iron supplements every other day has been shown in studies to help increase the absorption of iron. Only take iron supplements under the guidance of your doctor.
Iron-Rich White Bean Dip
Makes 1 1/2 cups of dip
*Served with vitamin C rich veggies for optimal absorption*
- 1 can (540 ML) cannellini beans (use salt-free if possible)
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp tahini paste (sesame seed butter)
- 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped, loosely packed
- 1 tbsp fresh dill
- 1/8 tsp sriracha
- 1/4-1/2 tsp salt depending on desired taste
- 1 large clove fresh garlic (approximately 1/2 tbsp minced)
Rinse cannellini beans in a strainer to remove canned juice. Place cannellini beans into a food processor and pulse a few times. Then add in lemon juice, tahini, parsley, dill, sriracha, salt, pepper to taste and blend until smooth. Serve with your favourite veggies. Bell peppers and lemon juice in the dip are high in vitamin C to help with non-heme iron absorption.
*To make beet white bean hummus, use the above recipe and add one small cooked beet chopped and blend. *
Crystal Hughes is a plant-based lifestyle expert and the creator of Heart Fully Nourished, a blog filled with healthy, nourishing plant-based recipes and wellness articles. Crystal is a registered holistic nutritionist, with a passion for helping people live a nourished life. She is a professional food photographer, and her work has been featured in international magazines. Check out her website at www.heartfullynourished.com.