Tag Archives: Iron

Beef Soft Tacos with Healthy Slaw

A healthier version with loads of vegetables and can easily be adapted to suit different diets!

Serves 4


  • 500g 5% fat beef mince (or vegetarian alternative)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green cabbage, chopped
  • 1/2 red cabbage, chopped
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 4 tbsp fat-free plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 8 soft tacos (I used the Old El Paso ones)
  • Salsa and guacamole to serve (optional)


To make the beef:

  1. Heat the olive oil on a medium heat in a pan.
  2. Add the onions and sauté for 4 minutes.
  3. Add the beef mince and garlic, and increase to a high heat to brown for 3-4minutes.
  4. Reduce to a low-medium heat and add the peppers and cook for a further 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To make the coleslaw:

  1. Mix together the carrots, cabbage and apples.
  2. Add the yoghurt and mayonnaise, and mix well.

Serve all with the tacos, salsa and guacamole. Enjoy!


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Beef – High in protein and low in fat, when the 5% version is bought. It is also high in vitamin B3, B6 and B12, for energy release in respiration, and iron for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis and immune function.

Coleslaw – Providing fruit and vegetables for your 5-a-day, and lower in fat (and, in my opinion, tastier) due to plain yoghurt and reduced-fat mayo being used instead of normal mayonnaise.



What is it?

Iron is a micromineral, or trace mineral, needed by the body for loads of different physiological functions. It’s deficiency is the most common, in both the UK and global population and can have some nasty side effects.

There are two types of iron: haem and non-haem. Haem iron is more useful to the body as it is more readily absorbed compared with non-haem iron, so is more effective in completing the physiological functions below.

What do we need it for?

Iron is used for oxygen transfer in the body by being a major component of haemoglobin, the protein which carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and working muscles.

Iron also helps make a protein called myoglobin which binds to oxygen in the muscles for storage.

The oxygen is then used to release energy, with help of cytochrome proteins which aid energy transfer and contains iron groups.

So, the mineral is pretty important in preventing fatigue.

It also has roles in the immune system as it helps produce white blood cells, which engulf and kill any invading bacteria.

Where can we get it?

Haem iron is present in animal sources:

  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • White meat
  • Fish

Non-haem iron is present in plant sources:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • White bread (note that although this is higher in iron, it lacks fibre which is also important in the diet)
  • Green vegetables
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit

How much do we need?

Men need 8.7mg/day

Women need 14.8mg/day

Women need more due to larger losses.

  • Chicken liver (100g) – 9.2mg
  • Lean beef (125g) – 3.38mg
  • Roasted chicken (100g) – 0.7mg
  • Roasted lamb (90g) – 1.71mg
  • One slice white bread – 0.54mg
  • 30g fortified cornflakes – 3.54mg
  • 85g broccoli – 0.51mg
  • 30g almonds – 0.9mg
  • 30g cashew nuts – 1.86mg
  • 1/2 can baked beans – 1.92mg
  • 1/2 can kidney beans – 2.20mg


  • Try increasing your vitamin C intake if you are lower on iron; vitamin C makes iron more absorbable in the body.
  • Iron has many inhibitors which keep it insoluble so less is absorbed; it is important to avoid these in iron-rich meals. Foods containing these inhibitors include:
    • Wholegrains – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t cut these out of your diet as wholegrain foods are really important for increasing fibre, just think about WHAT they are consumed with (don’t eat them with iron rich foods).
    • Tea – Again, can be consumed but avoid with iron-rich meals.
    • Coffee – Same as tea.
    • Chocolate – Avoid with iron-rich meals.
    • Spinach – It is a common misconception that spinach is high in iron, it is often used as a source of iron by vegetarians and vegans, but it contains oxalic acid which stops absorption.
    • Egg yolks – Again, eggs are seen as a source high in iron, but they contain phosphates which inhibit absorption.

Turkey Feta Meatballs


  • 500g turkey mince
  • 4 slices of prosciutto ham
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 115g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 320g wholewheat pasta, cooked


  1. In a bowl, mix the turkey, feta cheese and oregano.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, half the garlic and tomato puree, then mix into the turkey mix.
  3. Form into meatballs.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan on a high heat, brown the meatballs and remove from the pan.
  5. Reduce the heat, and add the rest of the garlic and prosciutto to the pan and cook until the prosciutto is slightly crispy.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and the meatballs, and simmer for 15minutes – watch as water may need to be added.
  7. Add cooked pasta and mix.
  8. Serve with crumbled feta.
  9. Enjoy!


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Turkey – One of the most lean protein sources, turkey is also high in potassium for fluid balance and muscle contraction, phosphorus for bone structure and metabolic functions, and iron for oxygen transport.

Feta – High in calcium for bone strength, feta cheese is relatively low in calories and fat compared with other cheeses.

Tomatoes – massively high in vitamin C for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis; it also has functions in detoxification and as an antioxidant. It also gives you vitamin A for vision and immune function, and potassium for fluid balance and muscle contraction.

Pasta – High in fibre (if wholewheat) for good digestion, and low in fat, this starchy source provides energy and a good base to this dish.


Vegan Chickpea Bean Burgers

Is everyone enjoying the sun? These low-calorie vegan burgers are perfect for cooking on a barbecue whilst soaking up all that vitamin D from the sunny days!

Makes 4-6 burgers.


  • 1 can of  chickpeas
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander
  • A little water
  • 1 tsp olive oil


  1. Combine the chickpeas, kidney beans, lemon zest, dried spices and fresh coriander in a food processor until broken up but still lumpy.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan on high heat.
  3. Add a little water if needed, and mould 4-6 patties out of the bean mix.
  4. Fry for 10-15 minutes, or until the outsides are crispy and golden and the insides are hot. Be careful when flipping as this is when the patties are most likely to break.
  5. Serve in breadcakes with salad or with oven chips.
  6. Enjoy!


Typical serving for one patty (if 4 are made):

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Chickpeas – a plant-based protein source. They are high in iron for oxygen transport, immune and vitamin C function; folate for DNA synthesis and cell production; and dietary fibre for digestion.

Kidney beans – Another important source of plant-based protein. They are high in dietary fibre for digestion and are a source of iron for oxygen transport whilst containing loads of antioxidants.

Mexican Bean Burritos


  • 2 tbsp salsa
  • 1 can (400g) kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (400g) black beans, drained
  • 100g wholemeal rice
  • 350ml boiling water
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 can sweetcorn, drained
  • Wholemeal wraps (or see homemade wrap recipe at bottom)


  1. Rinse the rice through a sieve until the water runs clear.
  2. Boil rice with water for 15minutes covered.
  3. Mix in salsa and cumin and heat for a further 2minutes.
  4. Add the beans and sweetcorn, and heat for 5minutes or until the beans are fully cooked through.
  5. Serve with wraps and any spare salsa/ guac.
  6. Enjoy!


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Beans – Both black and kidney beans are an important source of plant-based protein, providing over 30g per portion. They are also high in dietary fibre for digestion. Kidney beans are a good source of iron for oxygen transport, and they contain loads of antioxidants.

Sweetcorn – High in vitamin B1 and B5 for release of energy from respiration, and vitamin C for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis.

Cumin – Surprisingly, cumin is high in fibre for digestion and iron for oxygen transport.

Salsa – primarily made of tomatoes, which are massively high in vitamin C for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis; they also have functions in detoxification and as antioxidants. They also give you vitamin A for vision and immune function, and potassium for fluid balance and muscle contraction.

Wraps and rice, if wholemeal,  provide dietary fibre for digestion.


Makes 1 large/ 2 small wraps


  • 50g flour (and more for dusting)
  • 150ml warm water
  • 1 tsp olive oil


  1. Put flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle.
  2. Add the water a bit at a time, and the oil, and fold the flour in slowly until a dough has formed.
  3. Heat a little oil in a pan, meanwhile knead for 5minutes.
  4. Roll out the dough to make a thin wrap, and fry until brown spots have formed, turning halfway through.


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For one large wrap (half if making small ones)

Chicken and Chickpea Protein Curry

This recipe uses chickpeas instead of a carbohydrate base, so is perfect for getting that protein in for muscle production. For a vegetarian alternative, substitute the chicken for rice or naan; or you could swap out one can of chickpeas for the carbohydrates if you think you need more nutrients for energy!

Serves 2


  • 250g chicken breast, diced
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger, mushed
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 tsp olive oil


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan and add onion, cooking until soft.
  2. Add chicken breast and, whilst stirring, cook for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is mostly white all the way through.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add garam masala, turmeric, salt and pepper and combine.
  5. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, and again stir to combine and heat through.
  6. Cover with a lid and turn to a low heat, cook for another 5-10 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid and mix in the coriander and lemon juice until the coriander has wilted.
  8. Enjoy!


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Chicken – a low-fat source of protein which is high in the vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin for energy production; and zinc for enzyme function, immune control and protein synthesis.

Tomatoes – massively high in vitamin C for protein and neurotransmitter synthesis; it also has functions in detoxification and as an antioxidant. It also gives you vitamin A for vision and immune function, and potassium for fluid balance and muscle contraction.

Chickpeas – a plant-based protein source and a brilliant base if wanting a low-carb meal; chickpeas provide 36g of protein in addition to the 55g from the chicken. They are also high in iron for oxygen transport, immune and vitamin C function; folate for DNA synthesis and cell production; and dietary fibre for digestion.