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Low iron? There are good alternatives to red meat

Feeling low energy, tired, get more colds and flus than normal?  In the olden days, like the 1960s, there used to be a potion advertised suggesting that you might have ‘tired blood’.

In fact you may be iron-deficient, a condition that is said by nutritional sites to afflict more Australians than we might think. Iron is needed to produce red blood cells carrying haemoglobin, a protein that moves oxygen from the lungs to organs and muscles. Iron-deficiency can lower immune response and in more severe cases is called anaemia.

What do to? In western societies red meat is suggested as the main answer – which rather begs the question: what does the majority of the world that does not gorge on red meat do to stay energetic? Daily intake of red meat, along with processed meats, is also linked to other noteworthy health risks, according to recent World Health Organisation reports. It also raises environmental and ethical issues for some people.

The good news is that, besides taking a good iron supplement sourced from your health food shop, there are many other options for getting iron into the diet. A good start is that great staple, eggs, as well as ethically-produced chicken and fish. If you like oysters and mussels you’ll be taking in good amounts of iron.

In our region, we enjoy the labours of many small producers who offer free-range eggs, while Caroola Farms offers chickens and many produce the vegetables next on our list. You’ll find what you need at the farmers markets and Foodlovers market advertised in the Bulletin, and look for farm gate sales in your community – or grow your own!

Adding vitamin C in some form when you eat those iron-rich vegetables will aid absorption.  Dark green leafy vegetables like silverbeet, spinach, kale are front line for iron.  Nutrition sites also recommend whole grain cereals, legumes and pulses (beans, lentils, humus ( which is chick peas), nuts and seed – all of which are healthy anyway and get you away from processed foods.

Here’s a staple breakfast recipe regularly tried out in a Bulletin staff kitchen that combines at least two of the good sources of iron – eggs and silverbeet/spinach – taken with fresh orange juice and wholemeal or rye toast. Adding fruit is always good too. Lemon and passionfruit as well as berries and dark grapes are other sources of Vitamin C.

Eggs with silverbeet or spinach

For 2 people or add ingredients for more

  • 2 (or more) eggs beaten with a handful of shredded cheddar, sea salt and chopped parsley to taste
  • Silverbeet leaves depending on size, one to two big ones or more smaller ones or substitute a cup of baby spinach – rip or cut the leaves and  chop the stalks fine, removing the ends . Remember the greens wilt down so raw bulk should not deter you
  • Chopped onion or green onion as much as you like
  • Sliced mushrooms optional
  • Coconut or olive oil to fry the vegetable with a teaspoon of butter optional
  • In your omelette fry pan, sauté the onion and mushrooms in the oil until softened, add the silverbeet or spinach until wilted (you’ll probably be adjusting the heat from quite high to vegetable simmer and back to high as the eggs come in)
  • Add the egg mixture at a higher heat, as for omelettes, stir through the vegetables and let settle until scrambled egg or omelette consistency and voila!

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