By GALTime.com Nutritionist Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN
Let's face it-- we women always burn the candle at both ends. Between work, family and personal obligations, many of us don't take enough to time to plan out a healthy diet (let alone eat one!) Over time, not getting enough key nutrients-including iron- can leave us feeling sluggish, moody, and just plain blah.
So, why iron? Although we only need it in tiny amounts, this trace mineral is so important for women, especially while we're in our baby-making years and while we're actually pregnant. Iron is part of proteins that carry oxygen from the lungs to other venues in the body. It's also part of many enzymes, proteins that speed up chemical reactions and create energy in the body. Iron is also important for the brain. Although all women naturally lose some iron while menstruating, those with heavy periods and those who are pregnant need to prevent an iron deficiency or anemia.
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Although you can have low iron stores and be deficient without noticing any real symptoms, you can eventually develop anemia-that's when you'll likely feel more tired and weak, and unable to work optimally. You may also be especially sensitive to cold temperatures, or feel moody or not quite like yourself. Pregnant women who have low iron stores are at increased risk for delivering their babies ahead of schedule; their babies may also weigh less than is desirable.
So how can you get enough iron to meet your needs? The good news is that there are a lot of healthful foods that are rich in iron. For a complete list, click here.
Be sure to try to include several iron-rich foods each day. Non-pregnant women between the ages of 19-50 need 18 mg of iron per day; pregnant women need 27 mg; and women aged 51 and older need 8 mg per day. If you think you cannot meet your iron needs from food alone, before you pop any pill, be sure to discuss supplementation with a physician.
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