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According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the commonest dietary deficiency in the world.

Iron is used by your body to produce haemoglobin, the protein that your red blood cells use to carry oxygen around your body. Too little iron in your diet, and there’ll be too little oxygen in your system—so if you’re working out, your muscles won’t be as responsive, and you’ll quickly find yourself getting out of breath.

If your diet is balanced and you’re making sure you’re eating what you should, chances are iron deficiency won’t be a problem—and in fact consuming too much iron can be just as harmful as having too little. But if you’re vegan or veggie? Relying too much on processed foods or take-outs? Eating out every night on your holidays? Even a few days not eating what you should every day can be enough to see your iron levels drop and your performance start to suffer.

Here are five iron-rich foods you should be making the most of.



Red meat is one of the richest sources of iron around. So don’t rely on the lean chicken and turkey all the time. A little lamb or beef—which are often dismissed from healthy diets for being too fatty or tough to digest—every now and then won’t do you any harm!

Iron Red Meat


There’s a reason Popeye was so strong… Spinach is a great low-calorie source of vitamins A, C and K, but like a lot of green veg it’s also one of the best veggie sources of iron you can eat. Same goes for kale, greens, broccoli and peas.

The body doesn’t absorb plant-based iron (known “non-heme”) as readily as animal-origin iron (or “heme”), but spinach is still a good source with 20% of your iron RDA in a 100g serving.

Iron Spinach


As well as being one of the leanest sources of protein out there, a 100g serving of shellfish—like clams or oysters—can carry as much as 150% of your iron RDA!

Iron Shellfish


It’s easy to overlook nuts and seeds when it comes to sorting out your diet, but don’t! They’re protein-rich, super nutritious, and super portable—keep a packet in your car for a handy snack on the go.

And as far as iron is concerned, pumpkin seeds are a good bet to keep yourself topped up: a large handful (30g) contains a roughly quarter of your RDA, as well as a good dose of xinc, magnesium and vitamin K.

Iron Pumpkin Seeds


We keep coming back to the health benefits of chocolate, and here’s another example of how following a healthy diet doesn’t mean skimping on the odd treat here and there. A 30g serving of good quality, cocoa-rich dark chocolate contains around 20% of your daily allowance—as well as almost the same amount of dietary magnesium and more antioxidants than a serving of blueberries!

Iron Dark Chocolate



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