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Low iron levels can be overlooked as one of the leading causes of fatigue. It is one of the most important nutrients for it maintains good energy levels and a strong immune system. The more at risk group of low iron levels include teenagers, the elderly, pregnant women, vegetarians and vegans. Commonly I find clients with poor gut health can have a tendency to low iron levels due to poor absorption of iron.
Some of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency are
• Fatigue and lethargy;
• Frequent colds and flus;
• Paleness inside the mouth and lower eyelid;
• Fuzzy head, not thinking clearly;
• Low body temperature;
• Dizziness; and / or
• Restless legs or leg cramps at night.
What foods contain iron?
Common reason for iron deficiency is a diet low in iron sources. Include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet to maintain a healthy intake of iron. Animal foods provide a good source of iron, including beef, lamb, kangaroo, turkey, chicken, fish, oysters, liver and sardines. The redder the meat, the higher the iron content. Plant-sources of iron include molasses, shiitake mushrooms, dark green leafy vegetables and lentils. Vegetarian sources of iron may not be as well-absorbed as animal sources.
Do you have extra needs?
Iron deficiency can occur even when eating a healthy diet due to extra needs such as growing children and pregnancy or gut issues causing poor absorption of iron. Other factors reducing absorption including tea and coffee.
Test before you take supplements.
Too much iron can be detrimental so it is important to have a simple blood test before you take iron supplements. Sometimes excess levels can have similar symptoms to low iron levels and the easiest way to check is a blood test.
Not all supplements are the same
Some iron supplements commonly cause constipation. There are highly absorbable forms of iron which do not cause these side effects.
Side-effects, such as constipation, are commonly complained about with certain forms of iron. Therefore it is important to choose a highly- absorbable form which also minimises the chance of gut symptoms. Forms such as Iron bisglycinate is a gut-friendly form that is a highly-absorbable form of iron and reduces the chance of constipation occurring.
Other ways to boost your iron levels
Sometimes treating iron deficient anaemia requires more than just taking a supplement
A common problem I often see in my clients are women who tend to test low in iron regularly on blood test over time for no obvious reason. These clients often need to regularly take supplements to prevent iron deficiency returns. The supplementation corrects the anaemia but if they are regularly eating food sources of iron why isn't their body absorbing it from food?
The most common reason for this tendency to anaemia is underlying gut issues and / or food intolerances. Often these woman have little or no other symptoms of food intolerance. Improving the gut health and removing or reducing food intolerances are important keys to permanently reducing the tendency to low iron levels.
Quit sugar, eat more fat, and become slimmer and healthier.
Adapting to a sugar-free diet that has far fewer carbohydrates than today’s obesity-boosting ‘normal’ diets means having to substitute sugars with something else. That ‘something’ is healthy fats.
It might seem to be rather counter-intuitive to eat fats in order to prevent obesity and lose weight because it goes against dietary advice issued by health bodies and governments. That advice is to make carbohydrates 50 per cent of our diets and to limit the amount of saturated fats that we eat.
This advice is now under scrutiny, and may turn out to be the ‘direct cause’ of the obesity epidemic.
Everywhere you go – in supermarkets, at newsstands, in cafés and restaurants – we encounter them: sugar-loaded food and drink. There are tempting chocolate bars; there are cans of fizzy drinks; there are cakes and buns seemingly everywhere.
Even staple foods such as bread, pasta, and potatoes hide their sugar content. That is because these foods are ‘complex’ carbohydrates, which readily break down to become the monosaccharide sugar glucose in the blood. If you are not active, the body converts this high-energy sugar into fatty tissue under the skin.
Also, because many of us eat convenience ‘processed’ foods, we become loaded with another monosaccharide sugar called fructose. This particular sugar is much worse than glucose for health because it does not get used up as energy. Instead, it goes straight to the liver where it is converted into dangerous ‘visceral’ fat around internal organs.
Even worse, fructose is now understood to be just as bad as excess alcohol is in damaging the liver. The rise in liver damage among populations appears to be attributed to excessive fructose intake. Fructose is added to processed foods for flavouring and other purposes too numerous to mention.
Indeed, in countries such as the UK, net alcohol consumption has actually fallen over the past two decades – yet liver damage is rising.
The good news is that with the ‘low carbohydrate, healthy fat’ diet we can now begin the fight back against obesity. Healthy fats are now the new secret weapon against sugar cravings.
There are many respected studies showing that fats are indeed very healthy for us.
The dietary change from carbohydrates to fats is what most people find difficult to understand as well as to implement. This is because snacking on nuts or tubs of yogurt all day will not help to lose weight because these foods contain many calories.
The ‘low carbohydrate, healthy fat’ diet is designed to keep carbohydrate intake low for those wanting to lose weight. This is set at a maximum of 50 grams a day of carbohydrates for sedentary people, and up to 120 grams for active people.
If weight loss is not of concern but eating healthier is, consuming 120 grams of carbohydrates each day will be fine.
Here is an example of a ‘low carbohydrate, healthy fat’ meal, so that you can get an idea of the kinds of foods in this new diet plan:
- Protein: poultry, fish, meat (beef, pork, lamb, venison, etc): 100-150 grams per meal.
- Vegetables: as many varieties and as much as is needed.
- Eggs: up to three each day. Egg size is irrelevant.
- Fats: a large handful of nuts (not peanuts unfortunately, unless unsalted), or 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil; 1 tablespoon of butter or coconut oil; 30-50 grams of cheese; 3 tablespoons of full fat yogurt; 3 tablespoons of cream.
- Fruits: only berries such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries. 80 grams per day. (Apple and pear pulp contains fructose.)
- Carbohydrates: none if you want to lose weight. However, if you are fairly active, a fist-size portion of cooked, dense vegetables per day is acceptable. Options are: sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, lentils, quinoa, or buckwheat.
By the way, this diet plan allows you have a ‘Full English’ fry-up! A couple of eggs fried in butter or coconut oil, two or three slices of bacon, one sausage made of at least 80 per-cent meat, tomatoes, and a flat mushroom, make a perfect meal to start the day.
That sounds like a good way to begin the fight back against obesity.