Many pre-menopausal women suffer from low iron stores. Whether it arises from poor absorption, heavy periods, increased need due to pregnancy, or a low iron diet, the results are the same: tiredness, difficulty concentrating, muscle weakness, and poor immune function. If iron levels are very low, anemia can result. Your iron levels can be easily tested in a routine blood draw.
It is important to focus on your diet first, and you don't need to necessarily eat more red meat. Ground turkey, for example, has almost as much iron as ground beef. And the best sources, ounce for ounce, are actually shellfish such as clams and mussels. Other good sources include leafy greens, beans, lentils, whole and fortified grains, nuts, and seeds.
There are 2 types of iron in food: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found only in animal products, non-heme iron is found in plant and animal foods. The non-heme form of iron is not as readily absorbed as heme iron. However, there are ways to improve absorption: