We know that lamb has many health benefits, but this World Iron Awareness Week, we’re shining a spotlight on iron. Why is this mineral so important in a healthy eating plan? Let’s find out.
What is iron and why do you need it?
Iron is an essential mineral. It is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. It also supports a healthy immune system and plays a necessary role in the chemical reactions that produce energy from food. Everyone needs iron to survive, but children, pregnant women, menstruating women, athletes and people following restricted diets are most in need of it.
What happens if you don’t consume enough iron?
An iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies. In fact, 30% of the world’s population has an iron deficiency and research has shown that in South Africa, iron deficiency is particularly prevalent among women and Black Africans. So, what are the signs of an iron deficiency?
- You’ll feel lethargic and irritable.
- You’ll feel the cold more easily.
- Your ability to concentrate will be reduced.
- You’ll suffer from frequent infections.
How to include more iron in your diet
You can get iron from a plant-based diet, but legumes, cereals, fruit and vegetables contain non-heme iron. This type of iron is not as readily absorbed by the body as heme iron, which is found in meat and fish. This means, for example, that the amount of iron your body will be able to absorb from a slice of lamb is four times more than what you’ll get from a cup of spinach. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends eating no more than three portions of red meat per week, with a portion being equal to 350–500g.
Add these iron-rich recipes to your meal plan
Ready to increase your iron intake? Rotate these dishes throughout the month.
- Stuffed giant mushrooms
- Stir-fried lamb and sorghum bowl
- Lamb and vegetable lasagne
- Gourmet lamb pizza
- Roast leg of lamb with orzo pasta
Article reviewed by Marina Fourie, MSc. Nutrition. Supported by the Red Meat Industry of South Africa.
- World Iron Awareness Week. FAQs. Available at: https://www.ironweek.co.nz/faq-1 (Accessed: 16 August 2022).
- Research Gate. (2016) The iron status of a healthy South African adult population. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304399210_The_iron_status_of_a_healthy_South_African_adult_population (Accessed: 16 August 2022).
- World Cancer Research Fund International. Limit red and processed meat. Available at: https://www.wcrf.org/diet-activity-and-cancer/cancer-prevention-recommendations/limit-red-and-processed-meat/ (Accessed: 16 August 2022).