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Plant-based sources of iron in­clude green leafy veg­eta­bles, chick­peas, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and dates. How­ever, al­though iron is present in these foods, it is not at high lev­els nor is it in a form that the body eas­ily ab­sorbs.

For some veg­e­tar­i­ans and ve­g­ans, the body utilises the iron from veg­etable sources ef­fi­ciently, whereas for oth­ers, less so. Ab­sorp­tion of plant-based iron is en­hanced in the pres­ence of vi­ta­min C, so in­clud­ing some vi­ta­min C-rich foods (such as broc­coli, cap­sicum and lemon) with your meals can help. It’s also im­por­tant to avoid drink­ing tea, cof­fee and wine with meals, as tan­nins in these can bind the iron, which in­hibits ab­sorp­tion.

It’s im­por­tant to have your iron lev­els checked be­fore sup­ple­ment­ing, as an ex­cess of iron in the body is also prob­lem­atic, and some of the symp­toms of iron over­load are ac­tu­ally sim­i­lar to those of de­fi­ciency. Nuts and legumes also con­tain small amounts of zinc. Women re­quire 8mg of zinc per day and men re­quire 14mg per day to pre­vent de­fi­ciency.

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