Do you feel sluggish or fatigued during a workout or in your day-to-day activities? If so, you may have an iron deficiency.
Iron is a critical mineral that helps transport oxygen to muscle cells. When oxygen enters your bloodstream through your lungs, it attaches to the iron molecule of hemoglobin (a protein carried by red blood cells). The oxygenated blood then travels throughout the body, delivering oxygen to cells in need. Learn more about special iron needs for female athletes.
Iron exists in two forms: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in animal foods and is more easily absorbed. Nonheme iron is found in vegetables and is used to "fortify" foods with iron, but it's not as easily absorbed.
Although iron is essential to your health and performance, it does not naturally occur in the body. So it's important to follow these tips to ensure that you consume enough of this vital mineral.
Eat red meat, dark poultry or fish
Eat these foods once a week, but be mindful that red meat and dark poultry contain high levels of saturated fat.
Consume vitamin C with iron
To better absorb nonheme iron, you must eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and juices.
Opt for iron-fortified items
Have a small bowl of iron-fortified cereal with an orange for breakfast. Some of my favorite cereals are Cream of Wheat and Raisin Bran.
Choose iron-enriched grains, pasta and bread
Try wheat germ or barley instead of rice, 10- to 20%-iron-enriched pasta or iron-enriched whole wheat bread. Pair these with your favorite veggies, protein source or fruit.
Use a cast-iron pot or pan
Cooking with cast iron infuses iron into your food, especially acidic foods like tomato sauce and vinegar.