Iron is another one of the minerals that we can’t live without. It has an essential role in transporting oxygen through the blood, with two-thirds of it being found in the body’s red blood cells.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency, affecting around a third of the world’s population! People can be iron deficient without being anaemic, and it can occur at any age. The recommended daily intakes also vary depending on age, gender and life stage.

For example, the RDI for adult males is 8mg/day, and for females is 18mg/day, whereas in pregnancy this increases to 27mg/day.It is also especially important to be aware of sufficient iron intake for toddlers and children, as this mineral is essential for growth and cognitive development.

A deficiency of iron is often associated with fatigue, but there are other signs, including:

In children: 

  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Pale complexion

In adults:

  • Impaired thyroid function
  • Pale complexion
  • Poor immunity
  • Lethargy

Anyone can become iron deficient, especially if inadequate dietary iron is consumed; however, certain groups of people are at higher risk, including children (six months to four years of age), vegans and vegetarians, pregnant, lactating or menstruating women, athletes, the elderly and people with impaired digestive capacity. Other gastrointestinal conditions can also contribute to poor iron absorption, such as chronic gut inflammation, intestinal permeability, an intestinal parasite or low stomach acid production.

Iron-rich foods

Iron is found in a variety of different foods, and although it is high in red meat and other animal products, there are also many vegetarian sources. Here are just a few examples:

Dietary source of iron                          

100g beef (cooked) 0.9-2.4mg
100g kangaroo (cooked) 4.2mg
100g salmon (grilled) 1.3mg
100g dried apricots  3.1mg
100g Bok Choy 1.46mg
1 cup kale 2.5mg
100g almonds (with skin)  3.9mg
100g quinoa 4.6mg
1tsp cinnamon  2mg
100g nutritional yeast flakes  3.5mg

There are also many fantastic iron supplements available, which use highly absorbable forms of iron, with co-factors to support energy, immune function, and of course, adequate iron stores. Vitamin C helps support the absorption of dietary iron.

If you think you might be low in iron, it is best to have this tested; doctors as well as naturopaths and nutritionists can organise blood tests to assess your current iron status and formulate an appropriate supplementation plan.