Nancy, I’m not a vegetarian, but I rarely red meat. I have a history of anemia. I’m now training for the Boston Marathon, and it’s always in the back of my mind that I should be eating more meat. What can I eat to get enough iron without eating a steak every week?
Answer: You can bolster your iron intake by enjoying:
• chicken or turkey thighs or legs (the dark meat has more iron than the breast meat), turkey burgers (the dark meat that gets ground up), lean pork chops, and darker fish (such as tuna and salmon).
• Enriched breakfast cereals (such as made by Kellogg’s, Post, or General Mills) are also an excellent choice. The “all natural” Whole Foods types of cereals (Kashi, Puffins) are “all natural”; they have no additives (read that, no added iron or other vitamins), so mix and match the all-natural cereals with the mainstream brands.
• Include a source of vitamin C with each meal (such as berries with breakfast, sliced tomato on the lunchtime sandwich, and broccoli with dinner). This enhances iron absorption.
• And if all that fails, you can simply take a multivitamin and mineral pill that provides the recommended daily intake for iron.
You’d be wise to ask your doctor to measure your iron status (in particular, your serum ferritin, which is your strored iron), so you will know if you are anemic. If you are anemic, you really will need to take an iron supplement to get out of the hole.
For more information and a more complete list of iron-rich foods and tips for boosting your iron intake, refer to Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook