Say “get iron,” and most people think they need a side of beef — or at least a hefty plateful — to stave off fatigue and refuel their immune system. The fact is, you don’t need red meat at all to get plenty of iron to power you through your fusion yoga class, four client presentations, dinner with your in-laws (but you might need some red wine here), a walk with the dog, and maybe another type of romp or two in a day.
Too much red meat can overload you with heme iron, a form of the mineral that can boost your risk of type 2 diabetes. We know you already know that meat can overload you with saturated fat.
Fortunately, heme iron is far easier to dodge than the perfume-spritzing people at the mall. Plant-based foods contain only nonheme iron, which is free of any dirty links to diabetes. It’s pretty easy for men to get what they need — about 8 milligrams (mg) of iron a day — from food: A cup of cooked spinach alone contains 6.4 mg, versus 3.4 mg for a burger. Other good options: kidney beans (3.6 mg per half cup), oatmeal (3.4 mg per cup), and almonds (1 mg per ounce).
However, premenopausal women need about 18 mg a day, so taking a multi with iron is smart, especially since iron from plants tends to be harder to absorb than iron from meat. Help your body soak it up with these tricks:
1. Eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods. (Think oatmeal and OJ, chili with beans. See? It’s easy.)
2. Calcium blocks absorption of iron, so separate your calcium supplement and your spinach by a few hours.
3. Coffee and tea interfere with iron, so keep those apart, too.