Why is it important to maintain iron for people who menstruate?
Iron deficiency is classified to be high risk for menstruating women. This is due to blood loss from menstruation which depletes iron stores quickly. When iron is low, it causes many negative effects for our bodies such as low concentration, fatigue, and weakness.Therefore, iron is essential for everyone to go about our daily tasks.
What are ways that you can get iron into your diet?
There are two kinds of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is only present in meat, seafood, and poultry while non-heme iron is present in all legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Heme iron is better absorbed into the body compared to non-heme iron. Therefore, people who are menstruating should aim to increase their consumption of foods with heme iron to maximize their iron absorption.
Ways to maximize absorption if you do not consume meat:
It may be hard for people who menstruate to optimize their iron absorption when they only consume foods that contain non-heme iron. A way to maximize absorption is to consume foods that have very high amounts of non-heme iron which includes beans, spinach, and lentils. Another way to increase iron absorption is to avoid eating food that may inhibit iron absorption. This includes avoiding drinking tea/coffee along with your meals and incorporating citrus fruits with iron-rich foods to increase iron absorption.
If you are concerned about your iron levels and/or are experiencing symptoms of iron deficiency, talk to your doctor to see if you may have iron deficiency. You may also want to discuss with a dietitian about your current iron consumption and needs.
Reviewed by Annie Tsang, RD