Feeling a little tired, but can’t put your finger on why? Struggling to get through the afternoon without a sugar fix? Not feeling able to complete a workout in the gym?
All of these symptoms could indicate that you are suffering with low iron levels; iron is necessary for normal production of haemoglobin in red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. If iron stores are low, normal haemoglobin production slows downs. This means the transport of oxygen around the body decreases, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue and tiredness.
But the body can’t produce iron itself, meaning we must get it through our diet.
The experts at Spatone, an iron-rich water brand, advises that we only absorb approximately five to 20 per cent of iron from our food, while substances in our diet can inhibit the absorption of iron, such as teas (tannin) and coffee (caffeine), dairy foods and supplements containing calcium, raw cereal (phytates) and carbonated drinks (phosphates). Therefore, an iron supplement should be taken on an empty stomach or at least 45 minutes before or after food.
And who should supplement iron? Women, because of menstrual blood loss and during pregnancy, have a higher requirement, as do those who exercise as you can lose iron through sweating and urine. Vegetarians may also be lacking, so ensure plenty of pulses, soya bean products, dark green leafy vegetables and dried fruits. Other groups that have a higher iron requirement and may need a supplement include children, teenagers and the over 60s.