Top 10 iron-rich foods for heavy periods
Iron is an important mineral that must be consumed regularly as your body cannot produce it on its own.
Menstruation is a monthly occurrence for many women or people who menstruate. When you have your period, the inner part of your womb, the uterus lining, is being shed from your body. Whilst it is natural, it can cause many of us bother and leave us feeling exhausted, cranky and fed up. Looking after yourself with gentle exercise, rest and other forms of self-care, as well as eating a nutritious and balanced diet, may help with some of the unwelcome symptoms of the monthly flow.
Can iron help with heavy periods?
One of the things to consider is whether you have enough iron in your diet. Iron is a mineral which has the main function of transporting oxygen through the body. The daily amount you should consume from food sources is 18mg and a deficiency in iron can leave you feeling lethargic and tired. Those most at risk are women and people who menstruate and those who don’t eat a diet rich in iron.
What foods are good for heavy periods?
If you are eating a healthy and balanced diet, it should be easy to make it iron rich.
1. Liver and organ meats such as liver (but avoid this during pregnancy), kidneys, brain, and heart, are all high in iron. A 100-gram serving of beef liver contains roughly 6.5 mg of iron, or 36% of the DV.
Lean meats, such as lean beef and poultry are most easily absorbed by the body. A 100 gram serving of ground beef contains 2.7 mg of iron, which is 15% of the DV.
2. Fish is also a great source and alternative to eating meat every day. An 85 gram serving of canned tuna contains about 1.4 mg of iron, which is approximately 8% of the DV. Other fish examples that are iron rich are tuna, haddock, mackerel, and sardines. All shellfish is high in iron, but clams, oysters, and mussels are particularly good sources. A 100 gram serving of clams may contain up to 3 mg of iron, which is 17% of the DV.
3. Whole grains, such as wild and brown rice, oats, quinoa and popcorn are not only high in iron but also contain lots of fibre and keep those cravings for chocolate or fast food under control.
4. Every main meal after breakfast should contain some green, leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale, but if you prefer broccoli, you’re onto a winner, too. A 100 gram serving of raw spinach contain 2.7 mg of iron, or 15% of the DV. Don't forget to take a glass of orange juice to help with the absorption of vitamin C.
Generally, eating lots of fruit and veg can help with menstrual pain and discomfort because of antioxidants, which will also combat the desire to eat lots of cake and chocolate.
5. Talking of the latter, should you find yourself unable to resist your sweet cravings, then reach for some good quality dark chocolate. 100 grams contain 92% of the daily iron requirement, although we don’t suggest you consume the whole 100 grams in one go…
6. In addition, consuming iron-fortified cereals (check the nutritional content on the packaging) together with some low-fat dairy, or non dairy products such as milk or yoghurt could be a good start to your day - or during the day when you fancy an iron-rich snack.
I am vegetarian - what foods should I eat?
Whilst lean meat is high in iron and easiest absorbed by the body, you needn’t worry if you are a veggie. There are plenty of foods you can choose from which are both high in iron and delicious.
7. Instead of meat, reach for tofu, which is versatile and can be cooked into many dishes, from salads to stir fries and casseroles. Eating all your veg and fruit is a no-brainer, but make sure you have an extra helping of spinach and broccoli when you have your main meals.
8. Legumes are not only high in iron but also in fibre and super versatile and tasty. With so many to choose from, you will never get bored. Pick up a few cans of chickpeas, kidney beans, Adzuki beans or some garden peas from the freezer and enjoy them regularly.
9. If you fancy a snack, grab some pumpkin seeds or dried fruit and nuts to keep you away from the ice cream and chocolate.
What drinks are high in iron?
It’s not just food that contains iron, you can also get it from lots of drinks.
10. The front runner is Hibiscus tea with 8.64mg per 100g (and therefore 62% of your daily recommended amount). You can also reach for some hot chocolate or stir some chocolate syrup into milk - as always, read the nutrition label for more information. And if you fancy something a bit stronger, a glass of red wine also contains some iron, although your Merlot contains only 3% or your recommended daily allowance.
We hope this has given you a quick guide on how to include more iron rich foods and drinks into your life so your monthly period doesn’t cause you issues that could be helped by a change in diet.
It may make that little difference that will keep you going during your period.
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