Iron plays an important role in our bodies. If the body doesn’t have enough of this mineral, that leads to abnormally low levels of red blood cells so that you can feel tired and listless. Other signs of iron deficiency are pale skin, frequent headaches, dizziness, dry and damaged hair and skin, brittle nails, shortness of breath, restless legs, increased sensitivity to cold and infections, cracked corners of the mouth, cold limbs, anxiety and depression.

One of the biggest causes of iron deficiency in women is heavy menstruation. They lose too much blood, which is only partially supplemented for the next menstrual period.

Iron is absolutely indispensible for the production of hemoglobin, a protein that enables red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body (from the lungs to all cells in the body). With a lack of iron, the whole body suffers. If your body doesn’t have enough hemoglobin, your muscles, tissues and cells won’t get enough oxygen and be able to work effectively. Ultimately this can lead to a condition called anemia. Without iron, body cells, and especially brain cells, die of oxygen deficiency. Therefore, iron supports immune system, muscle function, cognetive function (intelligence), and energy supply, maintains good mood, and prevents restless leg syndrome. Below I have listed a number of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency for you. 

1. You are often tired.

Feeling unusually tired (fatigue) is the most common symptom of iron deficiency and one that you may overlook. Many people are used to being tired for a long time and often see it as the result of a busy life. However, it often has a different cause. Due to iron deficiency, less oxygen reaches your tissues and muscles, depriving them of energy. If too little oxygen is transported to the body cells, the cells lack the nutrition they need to produce energy. As a result, the body doesn’t get the energy it needs. In addition, your heart has to work harder to move more oxygen-rich blood around the body, which can make you more tired. 

2. You have unusually pale skin.

Paleness in general or in specific areas such as the face, nails, gums or lower inner eyelids can be a sign of moderate or severe iron deficiency. This is caused by lower levels of hemoglobin, which gives blood its red color. The skin can lose its healthy, rosy color. 

3. You are quickly out of breath.

Shortness of breath is a common symptom of iron deficiency. When hemoglobin is low in your body as a result of iron deficiency, oxygen levels will also be low. This means your muscles lack oxygen and won’t be able to do normal daily activities, such as climbing stairs, walking and cooking. Your body will try to get more oxygen and will increase your breathing rate. No matter how deep you breathe, if your oxygen content is too low, you will soon get out of breath. So, iron deficiency can also be the cause of this.

4. You have heart palpitations.

An overworked heart can lead to an irregular heartbeat, enlarged heart, heart murmur and even heart failure. These ailments occur when you walk around with anemia for a long time. So, keep an eye on your iron content. 

5. You feel anxious for no reason.

Life can be stressful enough, but iron deficiency can strengthen this feeling even more and trigger anxiety. The palpitations and lack of oxygen in your nervous system can give you a "fight or flight" feeling, if there is no reason for this.

Do you recognize the symptoms? Have your iron content tested by your doctor. But remember that the above symptoms may also have other causes.

What should you do if you have an iron deficiency? Choosing iron pills is not the best solution. In many cases they don’t offer a permanent solution. A disadvantage of iron supplements is that they are a major burden on your stomach, your immune system and the acidity of your body.

With a healthy and varied diet, you can prevent iron deficiency or improve your iron content. If you are vegetarian or plant-based, you can get iron from certain vegetables and grains.


  • dark green leafy vegetables, such as parsley, mint, basil, lamb's lettuce, spinach, kale, turnip greens, chard, arugula, dandelion leaf, cress, bok choy and lettuce
  • vegetables, such as broccoli, beets, asparagus, leeks and peppers
  • fruits, such as watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and bananas
  • dried fruit, especially apricots, figs, raisins and coconut
  • fish and seafood
  • nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews and sunflower seeds
  • beans and legumes, especially kidney beans, split peas, lentils, brown and white beans
  • mushrooms, such as chanterelle, shiitake and oyster mushrooms
  • grains and seeds, such as millet, barley, oatmeal, buckwheat (flour), and brown rice


A very rich source of iron is dried herbs, such as dried parsley, thyme, basil, marjoram, rosemary and even black pepper.

Let me show you an example with parsley. There are 7.5 mg of iron in 100 grams of fresh parsley. But 100 mg of dried parsley contains 95 mg of iron. So, you can see how huge the difference is. Nevertheless, fresh parsley is one of the richest natural sources of iron. However, many people think that fish is one of the richest sources of iron, but 100 grams of salmon, for example, contains only 1 mg of iron. That is 7.5 times less than in 100 grams of fresh parsley.

It's surprising that even black pepper contains a lot of iron. In 100 grams of black pepper is no less than 29 mg of iron. Therefore, it’s not at all superfluous to use these dried herbs regularly in your dishes.


    • Ensure that your body receives enough vitamin C from natural food sources, such as lemon(water), kiwi, broccoli, etc., daily. Vitamin C is needed for the absorption of iron by your body. Don't assume that you're doing well if you eat fresh fruit that contains a lot of vitamin C together with your sandwich. Fresh fruit together with other foods causes abnormal fermentation in the intestines and hinders the absorption of iron. 
    • Avoid yeast and all products made with yeast, such as yeast bread. Yeast is a microorganism that hinders the uptake of iron in the intestines.
    • The highest iron content in a food is not always the best.

Some foods from the above list contain more iron than the others. That doesn't say everything. For example, grains generally contain more iron than mushrooms, but the iron from mushrooms is absorbed better than iron from grains due to the absence of phytic acid in the mushrooms. This is because phytic acid hinders the absorption of iron and it is found in some cereals, but not in oats and buckwheat.