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How to boost your iron if you don’t like red meat

Reviewed by our expert panel
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Nutritionist and exercise physiologist Kathleen Alleaume looks at ways you can boost your iron levels if you’re not a big fan of red meat.

Q I had a blood test due to low energy, and this revealed I am low in iron. I’m not a huge eater of red meat, so what are some other ways to get more iron in my diet? Amanda, via facebook

A While red meat is a great source of iron, this important mineral which helps to carry oxygen around the body is also widespread in plant-based foods, including whole grains (quinoa and buckwheat), legumes (lentils and chickpeas), nuts and seeds, dried fruits (apricots, dates and prunes), dark green leafy vegetables and soybean (tofu).

However, the iron in plant-based foods (called non-haem iron) is not as well absorbed by the body compared to the haem iron in animal-based foods, such as meat, chicken, fish and eggs.

To help increase your absorption of non-haem iron, eat foods rich in vitamin C. This means adding tomatoes, berries, kiwifruit, capsicum, spinach, broccoli and citrus fruits to your meals.

For breakfast, try muesli with nuts, seeds and berries or an omelette with spinach and mushrooms. For lunch, have a wholegrain wrap with falafel, hummus and tomato, and cook up a tofu stir-fry with cashews, broccoli and quinoa for dinner.

First published: Oct 2021

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