Healthy eating habits/Iron for Young Women
This page provides information on how young women can meet their iron requirements. Iron is a particularly important nutrient for women of child bearing years (19-50 years of age) and not meeting iron requirements may affect both energy levels and brain functioning.
- 1 Iron in the body
- 2 Iron in the diet
- 3 Food Sources of Iron
- 4 Nutrient Interactions
- 5 Planning an Iron Rich Meal
- 6 Additional Resources
- 7 References
Iron in the body
Why do I need Iron?
Iron has many important roles in the body.
- It is essential for oxygen transport in the blood and muscles.
- It is a component in pathways that release energy from food for the body to use.
- It has important roles in maintaining immunity 
How much Iron do I need?
Iron is a trace mineral, this means, it is only required by the body in small amounts.
- For women of child bearing years (19-50 years of age): 18mg/day is recommended (without exceeding 45mg/day).
- However, for women of child bearing years who follow a vegetarian diet, almost twice as much iron is recommended: 32mg/day. 
This is due to plant based iron sources being less readily absorbed by the body than animal based iron sources.
Iron Deficiency occurs when the body's iron stores are low. This is different to Iron deficiency anaemia, which is a significant reduction of iron stores, that results in the blood's inability to deliver sufficient oxygen to the tissues of the body and energy producing pathways in the body are compromised 
Symptoms of Iron deficiency depend on the degree of Iron deficiency and include: decreased energy, breathlessness, pale skin, lack of concentration 
|WHY are young women at risk?
Iron overload or toxicity is uncommon, as Iron is tightly regulated by the body. It may however occur in the following cases:
- Haemochromatosis: a genetic condition that causes disruptions in the body's iron regulatory systems resulting in an increase in iron absorption and causing a build up of Iron in the body.
- If an excessive amount of iron supplements are taken.
Iron in the diet
Iron is found in two forms in the Diet. Haem Iron and Non- Haem iron
- Only found in animal products
- More easily absorbed by the body.
- 25% of Haem iron is absorbed. 
- Found in both animal and plant products
- Less easily absorbed by the body.
- 17% of non-haem iron is absorbed.
Food Sources of Iron
Haem Food Sources
|Food Source||Serving Size||Iron Content (mg)|
|Chicken Liver||100g, cooked||13mg|
|Beef Liver||100g, grilled||6.5mg|
|Beef, lean||100g, grilled||3mg|
|Lamb, lean||100g, cooked||2.5mg-3mg|
|Fish (white)||100g, cooked||1mg|
Non Haem Food Sources
|Food Group||Food Source||Serving Size||Iron Content|
|2 biscuits, one cup (30g)||3-4mg|
|Iron fortified bread
Eg. Burgen wholemeal bread,
Wonder White wholemeal
bread plus Iron
|Quinoa||1 cup, cooked (1/4 cup raw)||4mg|
|Brown rice||1 cup, cooked (150g)||1mg|
|Vegetables||Green leafy vegetables
Eg. Spinach, kale, rocket
|Asparagus||5 spears, canned||2mg|
|Fruit||Dried apricots||4 dried apricots
(8 dried apricot halves)
|Tofu (firm)||1/2 cup||2-3mg|
|Lentils||1/2 cup cooked||2-3mg|
|Herbs||Parsley||1 cup (25g)||0.7g|
Factors Increasing Iron absorption
- Including Vitamin C food sources in a meal, increases the absorption of non-haem iron sources.
Vitamin C food sources include: Tomato, capsicum, citrus fruits (such as orange, lemon, lime), strawberries, kiwifruit, broccoli.
- Including haem sources of iron in meal, increases the absorption of non-haem iron sources.
For eg. including meat products in a salad with green leafy vegetables.
- Cooking vegetables helps to increase non-haem iron absorption 
Factors Decreasing Iron absorption
- Chemical compounds such as: tannins, found in tea, coffee and red wine can interfere with the absorption of iron by the body.
- Chemical compounds such as: phytates, found in bran, some legumes and some nuts.
- Calcium can reduce non-haem iron absorption. 
Planning an Iron Rich Meal
- For Breakfast choose Iron fortified cereal or bread (see section 3.2) and add Vitamin C with fruits such as strawberries or kiwifruit or a glass of orange juice.
- Include haem iron (animal based products) in green leafy salads or for a vegetarian option, include vitamin C sources, for eg. tomotoes or a citrus-based dressing to help the body absorb non-haem iron sources (plant based products).
- Snack on high iron foods such as cashews or dried apricots.
- Cook vegetables helps to increase iron absorption from plant foods (non haem iron sources).
- For additional information regarding iron content of food: Nuttab
- For further information regarding Iron: Better Health Channel
- For information regarding meeting Iron requirements: Nutrient Reference Values
- Thomas, B. & Bishop, J. (Eds). (2007). Manual of Dietetic Practice. (4th edition). Carlton, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing
- Whitney, E., Rolfes, S.H., Crowe, T., Cameron-Smith, D.& Walsh, A. (2011). Understanding Nutrition. South Melbourne, VIC: Cengage Learning.
- National Health and Medical Research Council, NHMRC. (2006). Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand: Iron. Retrieved from: https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/iron
- Better Health Channel. (2012). Iron deficiency- Adults. Retrieved from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Iron_deficiency_adults?open
- Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, FSANZ. (2013). Nuttab online searchable database. Retreieved from: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/nutrientables/nuttab/Pages/default.aspx
- Kouris-Blazos, A. (2012). Food Sources of Nutrients: A ready reckoner of Macronutrients, micronutrients and phytonutrients and Chemicals. Sydney: Dr. Antigone Kouris-Blazos.
- Better Health Channel. (2014). Iron. Retrieved from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Iron_explained