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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

How to get your daily iron

Me pēhea e kai i tō rino o ia rā

Getting enough iron is essential for good health and wellbeing. Iron helps to carry oxygen in your blood from your lungs to your brain and muscles. This helps to keep you physically and mentally strong. Because your body uses iron every day, you need to keep up your daily intake to avoid getting low in iron.

If you do not get enough iron, you will feel tired, faint and breathless, and you might find it hard to concentrate. Your skin might also be pale.

Some people have a higher risk of low iron levels. These include:

If you think you are low in iron, talk to your general practice team as the only way to diagnose iron deficiency is through a blood test.

You cannot treat iron deficiency by diet alone, so if you are low in iron your doctor may prescribe an iron supplement. But even if you are prescribed a supplement, it is still important to get enough iron in your diet. Your doctor will also treat whatever is causing your iron deficiency.

Foods containing iron

Many foods have small amounts of iron. We absorb the iron in animal foods such as meat and fish more easily than the iron in plant foods, such as grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit.

Excellent sources of iron

The redder the meat the higher the iron content.

Good sources of iron

Useful sources of iron

Tips to improve your iron intake

Choose a variety of foods

This is the best way to get enough iron. Every day have food from all the main food groups:

Eat lean red meat regularly

Get plenty of vitamin C

Vitamin C helps us absorb up to four times as much iron. You can get vitamin C from many fruits (berries, feijoas, kiwifruit, mandarin, orange, rock melon and tamarillo). And vegetables (broccoli, capsicum, cauliflower and tomato).

Try to include fruit or vegetables with every meal, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.

Eat a variety of plant foods if you are vegetarian or vegan

Have plenty of green leafy vegetables and wholegrains. Regularly include legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds.

Keep your meals tannin-free

The tannin in tea and coffee stops your body from absorbing as much iron. Drink tea and coffee between meals rather than with meals.

On the next page: Iron-rich meal ideas

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2023.


See also:

Intravenous (IV) iron

Iron-rich meal ideas

Taking iron supplements

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Review key: HIANA-16978