Iron is involved in various functions in the body. An important function is its role in the transport of oxygen in the blood as it is part of haemoglobin.
Iron also helps the immune system function properly and is part of many enzymes found in the body. Low levels of iron can make you feel fatigued or tired and give you lowered immunity.
There are two types of iron – haem and non-haem iron.
Where it is found: Animal foods such as beef, lamb, chicken, fish and offal.
Absorption: Well absorbed by the body. Red meat is the best source of iron.
Where it is found: Mainly in plant foods such as beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, wholegrain cereals and iron fortified breakfast cereals, some dried fruit and nuts, eggs.
Absorption: Not as well absorbed as haem iron. To boost absorption include foods containing vitamin C and animal protein with foods containing non-haem iron.
The Australian Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for iron is 18mg for women 19-50 years and 8mg for women aged 51 years plus.
"Iron is often low in women," says Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella. "It's a balancing act of correct intake and maintenance of desired levels. Poor iron intake or an increase in blood loss, for example from heavy periods, may result in iron deficiency. It's important to have a blood test before taking iron supplements to look at both haemoglobin (iron containing protein in red blood cells) and ferritin (iron store) levels."
** Currently under review **
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at February 2014.