Friday, May 27, 2011

Iron Women: Do You Get Enough?

There seems to be a common trend among the diets of healthy eaters in the blog world. With such an abundance of people exercising and eating vegan or vegetarian meals, it's no surprise that low iron is something I see written about often. The last time I went for a check-up (3 months ago) I too was iron deficient. Are you one of the 20% of women who have low iron levels? Here are some symptoms:

-Shortness of breath
-Cold hands or feet
-Chest pain
-Brittle nails
-Restless leg syndrome

As women, we are even more prone to low iron levels since we lose blood because of that lovely monthly visit. Awesome. (Seriously wish there was some sort of sarcasm font to really make my point)

Sometimes I get caught up in different areas of health: running, lifting weights, yoga, enough veggies, protein, etc. I end up focusing more on pumping this kind of iron:

And forget about the nutritional kind of iron. 

If you are concerned with your iron levels, you can supplement them several ways. The easiest way is simply to increase the amount of iron-rich foods you eat. While a lot of animal based foods contain lots of iron, they aren't the only ones. Here's a list of some of the best foods to consume if you're low on iron. Bonus points if you consume them with Vitamin C: it helps the body absorb the iron. 

-Red Meat
-Egg Yolks
-Dried Fruit
-Dark Leafy Greens
-Lentils, Beans, Chickpeas
-Fortified Foods: lots of cereals and packaged foods

Spinach Salad

Many people opt to take an iron supplement as well. For some, this can cause stomach problems so it is best to eat something when you take them. Keep in mind that woman need a minimum of 18 mg. of iron per day--and significantly more if you're pregnant. 

Are you low on iron?
Yes! I'm not anemic, but my levels are low enough to need to pay attention to. I try to include as much iron in my diet as I can. 

What are your favorite iron-rich foods?
Spinach, hands down! I could eat that stuff all day long. I also realized that Rice Chex have got a HUGE amount of iron in each serving. Perfect for me, I've been eating at least one serving each day as a snack! 

Have you ever taken an iron supplement?
I tried taking a chewable iron supplement, but it made my stomach really upset. Eventually, I decided to try to get my iron from my foods instead and so far, so good!

**PS--those of you who already sent me your running in costume photos, AWESOME! So great! If you haven't yet, you still can! I'm compiling a post of all of your awesome photos. Send them to! **


  1. Great post. An excellent reminder for all of us ladies :)

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing the information. I will need to make sure I'm getting enough iron because I rarely eat meat.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Great post! It is definitely something I try to pay extra attention to, since I don't eat a lot of red meat and I know low-iron is common in female runners. I get my iron checked once or twice a year and so far, so good. I eat a lot of spinach and try to pick fortified foods (cereals, etc.) as well.

    That salad looks SO good!!

  4. Awesome post! Lots of good information here! I do not think I am low on iron but I know how important it is to keep my iron levels in mind!

    I LOVE spinach and had no idea that dried fruit was such a good source as well...I have been eating that like crazy lately :)

  5. It sounds silly but for athletic woman, pre-natal vitamins work wonders for balancing out our seemingly odd diets and exercise routines! There's lots of iron in them too!

  6. I just had my blood drawn yesterday to check my iron levels since I passed out after my marathon. I haven't gotten the results back yet but have already been studying up on how to add iron to my diet. Thanks for sharing. I am not a big meat fan so it is good to know there are lots of other sources.

    Have a great 3-day weekend!!

  7. Ok, this is CRAZY because I am on vacation right now and I was just talking about how I need to head to the grocery store to pick up:
    -fortified cereal
    because I felt like I was craving iron!
    Small world.

  8. I am low on iron... I have supplements but rarely take them. Since I don't eat any animal products, I get most of my iron from spinach and beans :)

  9. Great post, I too am iron deficient, but not quite anemic - I found out when I couldn't pass the blood iron test to give blood to the red cross.

    I love spinach and raisins, and I try to make all salads with leafy greens and spinach (I actually did double duty with a steak and spinach salad last night!)

    Never tried a supplement, but I have enough tummy issues as it is, so I don't really want to try!

    Great post!

  10. I dont know how I could be low on iron, I go through 2.5lb bags of spinach every week! I need vitamins in my life.

  11. I doubt I am low on iron cause I eat tons of spinach! Not sure though.

    Very interesting post. Thanks for the information.

  12. I've never been low, that I know of. But I do naturally eat a lot of the iron-rich foods.

    Your salad looks fantastic!!

  13. I have been told I was slightly anemic. Blech. But, I haven't had my levels checked for a while. Probably should do it! Your salad looks amazing!

  14. As far as I can tell I am always a little anemic and I eat a lot of spinach and beef. I quit donating blood because of it :( Great post!

  15. IRON sucks...only because I'm always low. I'm not anemic either, but every time I go to donate blood I'm turned down because it's too low. And, if I had a pic of me running in a costume I'd send it, but that has never happened. Sorry!

  16. I had all of the symptoms you listed above before going GF. I was ID, as well as many other nutrients, until I went gluten free. For celiacs, gluten kills the little hair-like structures in the small intestine that absorb nutrients. So I was getting NOTHING! I've never been able to grow nice fingernails. Now, they are so awesome & look like I had tips put on! lol

  17. I know I'm low on iron, but from the time it was first noticed to now, I have under a lot better control. I eat lentils and black beans like crazy and that has been the huge changing factor.

  18. This is a very interesting, and for me informative, post. I've been tested for low iron multiple times - which tells me that although the numbers haven't given them concern, they must obviously suspect I am low or else they wouldn't keep taking my blood and checking it. So I should probably be a good girl and do something about it!

  19. I don't pay much attention to Iron supplements, I always figure I eat sooo many fruit and veggies I have to be hitting and the basic needs. Although, two supplements that I live by is Vit C and Vit D3...just because I am always around little kids with germs and I need good immunity.

  20. this is a great post because it is so very common but often times gets overlooked. i was extremely low iron a couple of years ago and actually had some iron IV's...not fun. taking the pills on an empty stomach or too much at once makes you feel queasy, those IV's did a doosie! Today i still take supplements.

  21. I'm a guy, but I still liked this post and wanted to comment. I think my iron levels are good, but long distane runners/endurance athletes tend to have low levels, so my coach suggested we take a supplement. Bi-mart sells a great supplement that is very easy on the stomach and doesn't cause any sick feelings. I get iron from oatmeal, spinach, raisins, ground buffalo, and eggs,

  22. I had a ton of blood tests done last year because we thought I might have had lupus, as well as a blood sugar or iron problem, but everything checked out fine.

    Very good info given here. :)

  23. I have been anemic since I was ohhh 18? I didn't really like meat growing up and then when I moved out on my own I didn't buy it because it was too expensive... and now I'm a vegetarian. I think I'm getting better because I pay more attention to the iron content of foods, but that's only started in the past year.

    I always know I'm in rough shape when my energy levels plummet and I'm constantly getting headrush. Oh and everyone and their dog asks me if I'm sick because I make a ghost look tanned, haha.

    Great post though, I need a reminder like this pretty often. Thanks for sharing!

  24. I like to donate blood (shaking head at myself-it's been too long since I have) and I've been denied a couple times for low iron, but luckily I've been able to bring it back up without supplements. It's so frustrating to feel like you're eating healthy and BOOM you have a deficiency! Fortunately I was able to get over mine quickly.

  25. Thanks for this post, it was very informative. I've never been tested for my iron levels but I don't eat red meat or take supplements and I've always been wary of the possibility of having low iron.

  26. I have had low iron for what seems like forever! I have been taking an iron supplement for at least 9 years. I don't have any stomach issues with it and my iron is good to go as long as I am taking the supplement.

  27. What a great reminder post! I log my food via my fitness pal app on my phone and it calculates my iron for me. I'm a vegetarian and beans are a daily staple for me so most days I do just fine but I have already read up on supplements for when I get pregnant.

  28. I am definitely low on iron. I usually get it from cereal and spinach, but when I go off those two foods for a little while I'm constantly fatigued. Stupid periods and whatnot.