Is Your Blood Making You Tired?
Tiredness and fatigue are two of the biggest demotivators around, leading to a lack of energy and a general unwillingness to focus on fitness goals. However, tiredness and fatigue are often ignored as symptoms of a problem, since they can be caused by so many other things, like having a long day or stress. But tiredness can, in some cases, be caused by something that makes up 7% of your body weight: your blood.
Your blood is made up of white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets and water (as the main constituents). Red blood cells, the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, are made of haemoglobin, a globular protein containing iron. This protein binds oxygen, transporting it across the body to everywhere that respiring cells need it.
Iron, your body and you
Your body needs iron to make haemoglobin, in order to transport oxygen around the body. In muscles, iron is needed for myoglobin: A protein that takes oxygen from the blood to use in the muscle cells. Not getting enough dietary iron can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia, leaving the body to underproduce haemoglobin and myoglobin, and lead to less oxygen transported around the body. Starving your body of oxygen is not good, and done in even small amounts leads to muscle and brain fatigue — thus creating tiredness.
For a meat eater, achieving the dietary requirements for iron is relatively simple. Most animal tissues have heme iron in them, and consumption of these tissues can result in increased levels of iron. Red meats are bursting with heme iron, with the red colour coming from the high levels of red (iron-containing) haemoglobin. For a vegetarian or vegan, however, things can be a little more tricky, as nonheme iron is far less efficient than heme iron for absorption.
More nonheme is required to make up this deficit — approximately 1.8 times more, as recommended by the US Dietary Reference Intake.
In terms of quantities needed, the average male requires 8.7mg of iron per day, and females 14.8mg (rising to 30mg when pregnant). To put this into context, spinach contains a respectable 2.7mg of iron per 100g, compared to 2.4mg of 100g of steak, meaning that you would have to eat 1.1kg of raw spinach or 1.25kg of steak per day as a pregnant woman to reach the recommended daily levels.
I need more iron… Help!
For nonheme iron, dark green is often your friend. Try soybeans, which boast a huge 15.7mg per 100g, or pink lentils which provide 7.6mg per 100g, or oats which have 4.7mg per 100g.
Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables… Any sweeter alternatives?
Luckily for those of you with a sweet tooth, there are alternatives to be had; for example in a smoothie, on their own or mixed into various desserts or breakfasts. Dark chocolate has a surprisingly high level of iron, at 8mg per 100g, making it a tasty choice. Dried apricots are another with 2.7mg per 100g (the same amount as raw spinach). Raisins check in at 1.9mg per 100g and prunes at 0.9mg per 100g.
Being a vegetarian or vegan can be challenging enough without the added pressure of getting enough iron. However, with the above foods, you can be sure to get the appropriate levels of iron, and be sure to live a healthy and happy life.
About the Author: Jaspal is an entrepreneur with a passion for inspiring the health of body and mind by using health foods, supplements, and nutritional information. Director of company FILTUR, a site that compares brands of supplements, health foods and more, his goal is to help everybody achieve their aim of living healthier, happier lives.