I have not a thing against red meat. But many women I talk with do.
There are lots of reasons someone might avoid red meat- family history of colorectal cancer, ethical issues with red meat or meat in general, or just plain not liking it.
But a common recommendation for women, especially those with a history of anemia, is to eat lots of red meat (especially in the form of liver) for all the good iron.
Non-pregnant, pre-menopausal women actually have a daily requirement of twice the amount of iron as men! Because we lose iron through menstruation, it is very important for us to makes sure we’re getting enough, lest we develop iron-deficiency anemia.
While red meat is a good source of iron, there are actually lots of other sources, some even higher in iron.
Dietary sources of iron include two different kinds of iron- heme and nonheme. Heme iron is most often found in food and is much more bioavailable than non-heme iron which is contained mostly in plants.
That’s why vegetarians and vegans have so much trouble getting enough iron! Even though they may be eating foods that contain a good amount, it isn’t well absorbed. Phytic acid from grains and legumes and polyphenols from tea and chocolate can also reduce absorption of this important mineral.
But getting enough iron doesn’t have to be a red meat fest if you don’t want it to. Below are several non-red meat foods that contain higher amounts of iron which you can try to incorporate more of. You probably already eat some of these now!
Good Sources of Iron That Aren’t Red Meat
- Organ Meats
- Dark Meat Turkey
- Chicken Breast
- Beans (be careful if you are sensitive to these)
- Dark Leafy Greens
If you need to supplement your iron (and many women do) first make sure it is ok for you with your doctor. Iron overload is toxic to the body.
Second, try a good quality iron supplement (I like this one). Typical iron pills you might get are constipating and cause nausea, as well as being poorly absorbed. This brand is a great choice to avoid those things.
Many women also like to take desiccated liver because they want the benefits of liver without actually having to taste it! This is the brand of desiccated liver I like.
Consider also doing a lot of cooking in a cast iron skillet (like this one). It will help incorporate some iron into your diet, plus it heats evenly and makes food taste better, especially as it is used over time!
Being in the paleo world, it is tough to find any advice that doesn’t center on eating as much as possible red meat. I think we all got so burnt out on not eating it, we’re just psyched to eat steak again!
But red meat isn’t for everyone. I have met MANY women who struggle to eat it because they just don’t like it. I have met many others who can’t afford good quality and don’t want to risk it.
Whatever your reasons for avoiding it, I wanted to provide a little comfort that it is possible to get iron, particularly heme iron, in your diet even if you don’t eat much red meat.
How do you get enough iron?