Low iron levels felt close to home
When my son started primary school he began coming home with repeated skin infections. He had several courses of antibiotics but no sooner would I get them cleared up, then bam, they’d be back again. Frustrated and concerned, I asked the doctor to do a blood test, and it came back that he was low in iron.
Iron, I was told is key to ensure a healthy immune system as the cells that fight infection depend on adequate iron stores. My son’s low iron stores had made him prone to infections.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by this result as iron deficiency remains an ongoing issue for many New Zealanders, young and old. And worldwide, the World Health Organisation recognises iron deficiency as the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world, affecting people in both developing and developed countries.
Recurrent infections are just one of the signs you may be low in iron. Others include feeling tired all the time, feeling the cold, tiring easily, difficultly concentrating or losing focus on a task, and irritability. These signs and symptoms can often be put down to leading busy lives or having a ‘bug’.
This essential mineral has functions that directly affect the way we feel every day. It carries oxygen around the body in the haemoglobin of red blood cells and is key for the body’s chemical reactions that produce energy from food. If iron stores are low, your body will have trouble using all the energy available from the food you eat.
There are certain times when iron is particularly important, during periods of growth and development including infancy, childhood and the adolescent years, pregnant women, girls and women who have regular periods, athletes and very active people; plus those on restricted diets.
Raising awareness of dietary iron has been the backbone of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s nutritional messaging for over three decades and three years ago they went with an over-arching global campaign, World Iron Awareness Week, which commences on the 27th August 2018. It’s all about raising awareness of how common iron deficiency is and how to recognise the signs and symptoms, and what can be done about it.
It was easy enough to increase my son’s iron stores by following some key tips to increase iron absorption and feeding him his favourite mince recipes such as Cottage Pie and Mexican Mince. However, this experience boosted my fascination with the power of food and I later trained to be a nutritionist. Now, I feel I’ve come full circle and as a registered nutritionist am excited to be working in the New Zealand red meat industry.
By Regina Wypych, Nutrition & Marketing Executive at Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc
Check out some of our iron rich recipes below.