Hi guys, Accredited Clinical and Sports Dietitian Atlanta here. A common question I get asked in my day to day practice, particularly from women, is “What do I do if I have low iron”, or, “I am going on a new diet, how do I make sure I keep my Iron levels up”.
It is such a broad topic, and really requires individual attention to ensure specificity, but I want to chat about meeting this key nutrient need, specifically whilst on a Low FODMAP Diet. However the advice is still applicable to other dietary patterns.
Firstly, it must be noted when restricting intake of any food group, individuals are naturally going to be at risk of nutritional inadequacy. The Low FODMAP Diet does not require the complete elimination of any of the five foods groups, however there is a restriction in the variety of fruits, vegetables/legumes, grains and dairy products when following a Low FODMAP Diet, which ultimately puts an individual at risk of nutritional inadequacy. This solidifies the importance of patients working closely with an Accredited Practising Dietitian to ensure that nutrient requirements are being met to avoid the possibility of further health problems due to nutritional inadequacy.
One of the key nutrients that can be at risk when following a Low FODMAP Diet is Iron. Iron is a mineral particularly important for oxygen transport around the body. There are two types of iron: haem (found in animal sources) and non-haem (non-animal sources). While haem sources are more bioavailable for non-vegetarians through the consumption of meat, most iron in the Australian diet comes from plant foods. A diet rich in lean meats, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, iron-fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables provides an adequate iron intake. Many of which are reduced or intake is limited whilst following a low FODMAP diet.
The Estimated average requirement (EAR) is the intake level for a nutrient at which the needs of only 50 percent of the population will be met. The EAR for Iron is 6mg/day for men and 8mg/day for women aged 19-50 years and 5mg/day for women aged over 51yrs. The Recommended Dietary/Daily Intake on the other hand is the average daily intake level of a particular nutrient that is likely to meet the nutrient requirements of 97-98% of healthy individuals in a particular life stage or gender group. Therefore, usual intake at or above this level has a low probability of inadequacy. The RDI for men is 8mg/day and 18mg for women aged 19-50yrs and 8mg/day for women over 51yrs.
The reason iron requirements change for women over 50 is due to menopause and lack of menstruation in which large amounts of iron are lost.
So, what does 8mg or 18mg of iron equate to? What are some high iron yet Low FODMAP Foods?
Above you will see a list of Low FODMAP yet high Iron foods. Meat is FODMAP free so there in no limit to the serving size, making it far easier to meet your iron requirements. However, if you are a vegetarian and following a Low FODMAP Diet you can still meet your requirements, you just need to know which vegetarian foods are high in iron and low in FODMAPs.
Some Quick Tips to Increase Iron Absorption
- Consume foods high in vitamin C (citrus fruits and juice, strawberries, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, broccoli) at meals
- Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals (tannins in tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption)
- Avoid taking calcium supplements with meals
- An iron supplement may be indicated if blood test results show deficiency
What Are Signs of Iron Deficiency?
Common signs of iron deficiency are but not limited to:
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Brittle Nails
- Shortness of breath
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it may be a good idea to check in with your doctor and get a blood test. You must only take iron supplements if directed by your health care professional as iron can be toxic if over consumed.
Below is an example of a vegetarian diet meeting 18mg of iron per day (recommendation for women aged 19-50yrs)
– 35g corn flakes with lactose free milk = 3.0mg
– 1 lactose free yoghurt and 30g pepitas= 3mg
-Genius FODMAP Friendly certified 4 Triple Seeded Soft Roll with 25g spinach, 1 hard-boiled eggs, 1 tsp whole egg mayonnaise = 7.0 mg
– 1 banana with 1 tbsp peanut butter = 0.35mg
-Tofu & Quinoa fried rice (recipe below) = 6.0mg
= 19.35mg Iron
Tofu & Quinoa fried rice Serves 2
– 1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
– 2 spring onions (green parts only), diced
– 4 drops sesame oil
– 200g firm tofu
– 1 cup quinoa, cooked
– 2 eggs
– 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
– 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
– 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
– 1 bunch choy sum, diced
– 1 cup broccoli, diced
– 0.5 cup diced red capsicum
– 1 small carrot, diced
– 2 tablespoons toasted peanuts
- Place a pan on high heat with a spray of oil. Whisk 2 eggs in a bowl and when the pan is hot add the eggs and cook like an omelette. Once one side is cooked, flip the omelette like a pancake and cook the other side. Once cooked, remove from the pan, fold and cut into long thin strips. (If this is too much effort you can always fry an egg and place it on top of the rice at the end).
- Heat a wok to a medium-high heat and add the olive oil and sesame oil. Once the pan is warm add the spring onion, chilli flakes, capsicum and carrot and stir for a couple of minutes then add the tofu, broccoli and bok choy and stir until softened.
- Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and stir in with the vegetables then add in the quinoa and mix thoroughly.
- Divide the rice into two bowls and top with the omelette and peanuts.
To ensure you are meeting all your nutrient needs for a happy, healthy and active life, be sure to speak with an Accredited Clinical Dietitian. To book, all our details can be found here.
Written by Accredited Clinical and Sports Dietitian Atlanta Miall