Are you getting enough?


It’s Iron Awareness week and too many people aren’t getting enough:

Iron deficiency remains an ongoing issue for many New Zealanders, with many unaware they have deficient levels.

According to the last national nutrition surveys, low iron levels were evident in one in 14 adult women over 15 years old with over a third of teenage girls aged 15-18 years not achieving their daily iron requirements.

Furthemore, 8 out of 10 toddlers are not meeting the recommended daily intake of dietary iron and 14% of children under 2 are deficient.

In recognition of these concerning statistics, Beef + Lamb New Zealand is pleased to facilitate an Iron Awareness Week commencing Monday 13th April, with an aim to raise awareness on the importance of dietary iron, recognising the signs of low iron and what you can do about it. . .

 That includes 10 tips to improve your iron intake:

Fatigue, lethargy, frequent infections and reduced resistance to cold. It may surprise you that these commonplace symptoms are often caused by iron deficiency and can be easily avoided by increasing your iron intake.

Follow these ten simple steps to make sure your daily intake is adequate:

Eat Lean Meat Regularly for Top Iron Intake

There are two types of iron in food: haem iron (found in meat and fish) and non-haem iron (found mainly in plants). Meat also contains some non-haem iron. The body absorbs the haem iron in meat much more efficiently than the non-haem iron in plant foods. For example 1/4 cup of cooked silverbeet contains 0.5mg of iron, but the body can only use about 5% of this. In comparison, 120g of cooked lean beef contains an average of 3.1mg of iron and the body absorbs around 25% of it. You would need to eat a massive 1kg of cooked silverbeet to get the same amount of iron provided by a serve of 120g of lean meat. This equates to a moderate serving of spaghetti bolognaise or a couple small lamb leg steaks.

See Red

Red meats are richer in haem iron than white meat, poultry and fish, so enjoy lean beef and lamb 3-4 times per week for a top iron intake. 

Get Plenty of Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body to use non-haem iron – the iron in plant foods. Include plenty of fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C with your meals.

Eat Red Meat and Vegetables Together

Eat a combination of red meat and plant foods (vegetables, pasta, rice, legumes, fruits). Eating meat with plant foods will also help the body use more of the non-haem iron by up to four times. Examples of iron-rich meals include meat and vegetable stir-fry, a meat sauce with pasta and vegetables, or a lean beef salad sandwich.

Keep Your Meals Tannin Free

It is better to drink tea and coffee between meals, rather than with your meals. The tannin in tea, and to lesser extent coffee, reduces the amount of iron we can use from food.

Beware of Dieting

Studies show girls and women on low calorie diets do not get their daily iron requirements. Remember, lean beef and lamb are relatively low in calories yet high in iron and can be included in any weight reducing diet.

Extra Iron for Exercise

You need extra iron if you exercise strenuously and often. Have your iron levels checked regularly and ensure your diet is balanced and varied, including lots of foods high in haem iron. Iron-rich foods include beef, lamb, kidneys and liver.

Don’t Rely on Supplements

The iron in pills or supplements and fortified foods such as breakfast cereal is poorly absorbed. Don’t rely on these for your total daily iron needs, and only use supplements if advised by your doctor.

Choose from the Four Main Food Groups

A sure way to improve your iron intake is to eat a balanced and healthy diet. Each day you should eat a variety of foods from the main foods groups: breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and red meat, fish, chicken or a protein alternative (eg beans, lentils, eggs or tofu).

Be Extra Iron Smart if You’re at Risk

Infants, girls and women who have periods, teenagers, pregnant and nursing mothers, sports people, vegetarians and the elderly are most at risk of being iron deficient. Learn how to cook appealing, iron-rich dishes to suit you and your family. Look for ideas on quick and easy beef and lamb dishes. You’ll find recipe cards in supermarkets and butchers’ shops, or visit our website:

Are you getting enough?


Are you getting enough?





That’s the question being asked for Iron Awareness Week:

The Iron Maidens: Sarah Walker, Lisa Carrington and Sophie Pascoe are taking their role further as Beef + Lamb New Zealand ambassadors, helping to spread the message of an issue that faces many New Zealanders, but often goes unnoticed.

Feeling tired, irritable and grumpy, having difficulty concentrating and feeling the cold are all symptoms of being low in iron but are usually put down to a busy lifestyle.

“More people need to be aware of these symptoms and what can be done to improve iron levels”, says Sarah Walker, BMX medallist.

Iron deficiency remains an ongoing concern particularly for teenagers and women. Dr Kathryn Beck of Massey University says “The latest National Nutrition Survey found over 10% of New Zealand teens (15-18 years) and women (31-50 years) had iron deficiency. Many more women are likely to have low iron stores and are at risk of developing iron deficiency”.

Young children are also at risk with New Zealand research revealing 8 out of 10 toddlers not meeting the recommended daily intake of dietary iron and 14% of children under 2 are deficient according to New Zealand research.

Iron’s role in red blood cell formation makes it vital for delivering oxygen to muscles during exercise and K1 Canoer medallist, Lisa Carrington knows firsthand how important iron is in her diet every day.

“Nourishing whole food is key to my performance both in training and competition, and iron-rich foods have an important role to play in my energy levels,” says Lisa.

This is also an area of interest for Senior Performance Nutritionist, Alex Popple from High Performance Sport New Zealand.

“Enhancing oxygen uptake and delivery are some of the desirable adaptations from endurance training. Paradoxically, endurance athletes are often found to have iron deficiency, which could limit or impair their performance”, says Alex.

Alex will be one of five speakers involved with a symposium for health professionals titled Iron: The Issue of deficiency in a land of plenty held in association with the University of Auckland Food and Health Programme on Tuesday 8 April. He will present his findings on the role hepcidin, a hormone which elevates after intense exercise, has on iron levels in athletes.

Iron is found in a number of foods, with lean red meat providing one of the richest sources of easily absorbed haem iron; in general the redder the meat, the higher the iron content.

There’s more information at Iron Week.


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