Eating properly is an essential part of keeping fit and healthy, and has long been a standard part of doctor’s orders.
Making sure you get enough iron is the key to doing so, although a few tips are in order.
“Iron sourced from animal products is more readily taken up by the body than that of vegetable origin. In the case of iron from animal products, take-up is between 15 and 35 per cent, whereas with vegetable iron it is just 5 per cent,” according to Petra Renner-Weber, a dietician based in Bonn, Germany.
Meat in some form or other should thus be on the menu two or three times a week. This can be augmented by consuming vegetable products rich in iron, such as beetroot, pulses and whole grain cereals. Fish is also a good source.
There are tricks to enhance iron take-up from vegetables. “Vitamin C, protein and organic acids like lactic acid promote iron take-up,” Renner-Weber says. “One should drink a glass of orange juice with a meal, eat a salad, or, alternatively, have yoghurt for desert.” She advises vegetarians to avoid drinking either tea or coffee after a meal, as the tannin they contain inhibits the body’s ability to absorb iron. The same applies to substances like phosphates and oxalic acid, which occur in rhubarb, spinach and cocoa.
With iron from animal sources, coffee and tea are less of a problem. “The iron contained in them is stable in the face of external effect, and the body is able to absorb it readily,” Renner-Weber says.
A diet rich in iron could look as follows: for breakfast, wholegrain muesli with dried fruit and nuts, accompanied by a glass of orange juice; for the main meal at lunch a portion of meat, accompanied by broccoli and potatoes; and for a light evening meal, wholegrain bread, some smoked fish and beetroot.
“If you eat a balanced diet there is no reason to go without coffee and tea,” Renner-Weber says. “And a cup of coffee after the midday meal is also fine.”