smallworld beauty: health, fitness & beauty blog

Feeling light-headed, weak, irritable? You may be LOW IN IRON

August 27, 2010 Other 3 Comments

You would think with all the research I’ve done on nutrition, that I would be the healthiest chicken in the coop, but not quite. Sometimes, life can get nutty and I forget to pay close attention to what my body is trying to tell me.

A few months back, I noticed that I was feeling extra fatigued, light-headed when getting  up, and my hands and feet were freezing like a vampire’s. At first, I thought nothing of it. I figured that my crazy work schedule and late nights were causing me to feel this way, but it turned out that I was way off.

While browsing through nutritional youtube videos, I came across a Dr. Oz episode about recognizing and treating Iron deficiency. Hmmm…

After watching a few minutes of it, I was convinced that I was also iron deficient, a VERY common type of anemia that most women experience.  Iron is important in aiding red blood cells in carrying oxygen throughout the body for optimum energy and performance.

So let’s run down some of the symptoms!

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Irritability
  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
  • Increased likelihood of infections
  • Brittle nails
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or pure starch
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia
  • Restless legs syndrome — an uncomfortable tingling or crawling feeling in your legsfeeling fatigue and weak, light-headedness and dizzy, and pale skin and cold hands and feet.

OMG! I swear I thought I was supplementing my diet with enough iron but I guess not. I’ll explain what I was doing wrong in a bit, but let’s continue with more helpful info first.

According to Dr. Oz, iron deficiency is very common among women and can result from a few things from heavy blood flow during periods and lack of iron-rich foods in one’s diet. After Dr. Oz diagnosed me via TV, he went on to explain the next step of “treating” iron deficiency through both food and supplements.

Ok, so there are two types of iron, “heme” iron (found in meats) and “non-heme” found in veggies, whole grains and beans. The best way to get iron in our bodies is through “heme” / meat iron. (see image) “Non-heme” iron from veggies require other combinations of nutrients to help our bodies absorb them. Another issue with non-heme iron is that certain ingredients can “inhibit” the body from absorbing it like tannins and polyphenols that are found in coffee, tea and chocolate!

No wonder!

Spinach is one of my favorite iron-rich veggies that I include throughout the week, but being such a coffee and tea lover, I can see how my body is not fully absorbing certain nutrients that I need. It’s really amazing how the body works! Like I always mention throughout my posts, moderation is key.

On a happier note, some effective enhancers of iron are Vitamin C (found in most fruits and veggies) and even sugar and alcohol (beer and wine)

I don’t want to get too technical on you, so I found a great link for you to gather more info on inhibitors and enhancers. Click here!

Immediately after the show, I made a list of the dietary changes that I needed to implement to boost my energy and performance and drove to the grocery store!

I filled my cart with iron-rich foods like lean red meat (as lean as possible), pumpkin seeds, raisins, kale and collard greens, iron-enrished whole grains (Bob’s Red Mill 5 grain), mussels and even a piece beef liver. I grew up with eating liver, so I actually enjoy it once in a while! One ingredient that I made sure to buy was THYME… This yummy herb can provide your body with up to 688% of your RDA of iron…

It has been two weeks since I have tweeked my diet and I am definitely feeling way more energetic and my feet are actually feeling normal!

Iron deficiency can lead to health complications, so please share this post with anyone you know who may benefit from this.

If you have a personal story on this topic, please share with the rest of us!

Love, Ghada

Iron rich food Iron Content RDA % * Calories
Cockles boiled 28mg 155% 50
Black Pudding 20mg 111% 300
Liver 9mg 50% 190
Fish Paste 9mg 50% 170
Faggots 8.3mg 46% 270
Kidney 8mg 44% 170
Venison 7.8mg 43% 200
Heart 7.7mg 43% 180
Mussels boiled 7mg 39% 90
Liver Pate 7mg 39% 190
Liver Sausage 6.4mg 36% 312
Goose 5mg 28% 320
Pheasant 5mg 28% 220
Shrimps canned 5mg 28% 95
Haggis 4.8mg 27% 310
Sardines canned 4.5mg 27% 180
Anchovies canned 4mg 22% 285
Whitebait 4mg 22% 310
Tongue Ox 3mg 17% 300
Pilchards canned 2.7mg 16% 130
Beef lean 2.5mg 16% 240
Other Iron rich foods Iron content RDA % Calories
Thyme ground 124mg 688% * 276
Curry Powder 58mg 321% * 233
Oat & Wheat Bran 45mg 250% * 330
Cinnamon ground 38mg 210% * -
Garam Masala 33mg 183% * 380
Rosemary 30mg 167% * 330
Oxo cube 24.5mg 136% * 230
Paprika 24mg 133% * 290
Bran Flakes 20mg 111% 320
Ready Brek 13.2mg 73% 373
Special K cereal 13mg 73% 370
Bran Wheat 13mg 73% 205
Sesame Seeds 10mg 55% 11
Black Treacle 9.2mg 54% 260
Soya flour low fat 9mg 50% 350
Wheatgerm 8.5mg 49% 300
Liquorice 8mg 44% 310
Cashew Nuts 6.2mg 34% 610
Blackcurrants canned 5mg 28% 45
Figs dried 4.2mg 23% 205
Bombay Mix 3.8mg 21% 500
Lentils boiled 3.5mg 19% 100
Apricots ready-to-eat 3.5mg 19% 160
Hazelnuts 3.2mg 19% 650
Almonds 3mg 17% 600
Twiglets 3mg 17% 380
Soya beans 3mg 17% 140
Malt bread 2.8mg 16% 270
Wholemeal bread 2.7mg 15% 215
Red Kidney beans 2.5mg 14% 100
Watercress 2.2mg 14% 23

Values for iron rich foods may vary between individual portions, these values should only be used as a guide!


  1. MB says:

    hi, i am anemic from approximately a year…and i have tried various medicines …took help of various doctors…..but then it has not helped much….i have a very tight schedule( right from 6 in morning to 6 in evening) my diet also suffers because of it…Your post helped me know better about my disease…but please can u refer me a proper diet..(i m vegetarian and i cant understand much of the things written above)

  2. Claire says:

    Wow, great article! Thank you!

  3. emily says:

    Just researched weak legs in google and came across this article, It has made me feel better I also have anemia and have so for the past 8 months, knew about feeling tired and weak and a few other symptoms but not about the weak leg feeling.. My diet is alot to do with my anemia as I find it hard to eat breakfast and lunch it makes me feel sick.. I wait until my dinner around 5.30 to eat I also have a hectic lifestyle kids work studying, I am taking extra supplements but my diet really needs to be changed thank you for this article..

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