In a previous post, I exposed four sneaky energy saboteurs. Today, I’ll help you get the upper hand on your iron and energy levels.
Get enough protein.
Including enough protein-rich food during the day serves many purposes.
It helps keep blood sugar steady1 to avoid energy spikes and crashes. It helps to maintain muscle so we can get through the day more easily. It’s often found in nutrient-dense foods, which helps us feel more vital overall2.
A critical thing protein does is carry iron from the small intestine to the blood. In other words, if we are deficient in protein, we are more likely to be iron deficient3.
Take a moment to breathe.
It has been said before, and we’ll say it again: you can be stressed or digesting, not both.
Your body is intelligent; it doesn’t bother producing digestive juices when your life is in danger. While today’s stressful situations are not often life-or-death, your body can’t tell the difference if you are holding your breath.
To help to switch digestion and absorption into ON mode4, take a few deep belly breaths prior to and during meals in between bites and swallows. The extra digestive juices this allows will help you assimilate nutrients like iron more effectively.
Include the breaths at other times as well. Too tired to exercise? The revitalizing benefits of oxygen are always available through breath.
Spread your iron intake out over the day.
Your body has a maximum capacity for absorbing iron at any time. That’s because iron is moved from the digestive system into the blood stream with the active help of transferrin5. You must give the livertime to create more.
A low-dose iron supplement solves this issue. Taken a few times each day, it will get your iron levels up faster than one large dose taken once per day.
Put the right meals into heavy rotation.
Your cereal box may boast “high in iron” but that does not mean that iron is bioavailable.
Think of dishes that combine beta-carotene and vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies, like citrus, peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli, with iron-rich meats and seafood (full of protein!) or their vegan alternatives. Combining iron-rich plants with meat helps, too6.
Some examples include beef and broccoli, Manhattan clam chowder, Thai tofu curry, leafy green salads with dark turkey meat and citrus dressing, lamb kabobs with Greek salad, Marrakesh vegetable curry (pro-tip: use kale not spinach), duck à l ’orange, tomato sauce with ground beef or game meat, and mussels with peppers in white wine sauce. As a sidenote, a little white wine can improve iron absorption, but beware. Too much alcohol is associated with increased anemia risk.
Set them (in your meal plan) and forget them.
The ideal iron supplement will be available in a smaller dosage amount7.
Some tablets nicely fit the bill. Liquids are great because they’re easy to take in divided doses and allow absorption over a greater surface area in the gut.
If buying a mineral liquid, be sure to pick a solution, not a suspension. Solutions are desirable8; the iron in a suspension is just added in (think of sand when it’s added to water). A solution allows for faster breakdown and better utilization by the body.
Feeling better now?
If you can’t get your lab numbers or your energy up with these tips, or you aren’t sure if you should take iron, ask for help. Check with your doctor to check your iron and to rule out an underlying problem.
Now that we’ve shared our top tips with you, why not share with us? Have you ever suffered from low iron? What do you do to feel energized? Do you have a favorite energizing meal? Let us know in the comments below!
Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP, is a Vancouver-based educator and coach. She is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog and can answer your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Product Information Specialist at Flora.
- An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes.
- Protein-Deficiency Anemia
- Anemia associated with protein deficiency
- Jerath, R., Edry J.W, Barnes, V.A., and Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypothesis, 67, 566-571.
- Transferrin and Iron-binding Capacity
- Iron nutrition and absorption: dietary factors which impact iron bioavailability.
- Iron supplementation: When less is really more
- Drug Solubility: Importance and Enhancement Techniques