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4 Easy Ways to Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Iron

Hint: It's not just about eating more meat.

Iron deficiency affects as many women after menopause as it does before. Yet three new studies prove iron is so essential for brain function that just avoiding low levels — or restoring them if they’re if they’re already low — can cut your risk of Alzheimer’s disease 38 percent. Here’s how to do it.

Get some ACV.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is naturally rich in a compound (acetate) that stimulates the formation of new iron-carrying red blood cells, often within three days, University of Texas research shows. And you only need to consume 1/2 Tbs. daily. Try making a salad dressing by mixing it with olive oil, a little bit of salt, and herbs. Or just dilute the vinegar in a big glass of water and drink it.

Eat the right protein.

Shopping for meat? The darker it is, the more iron it contains, reports the International Science and Technology. Good choices include chuck eye steak, lamb shoulder, organ meats (like liver), and chicken or turkey legs and thighs. Also, if possible, prepare meat while it’s fresh: At least 13 percent of the iron content is lost in the juices when it’s frozen and then thawed. Not a meat eater? beans, tofu, egg yolks, and canned oysters are also packed with iron.

Increase vitamin C intake.

Mixing just 1/16 tsp. of powdered vitamin C into whatever you’re drinking at each meal increases your iron absorption 414 percent. Canadian research shows that vitamin C quickly converts tough-to-absorb plant iron into a form that your intestines have no trouble soaking up.

Switch to acetaminophen.

Painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil) can trigger intestinal bleeding if you take them often or in high doses, says Lawrence Rice, MD, chief of hematology at Texas’ Houston Methodist Hospital. Your best bet: Stick to the lowest dose possible, or switch to acetaminophen (Tylenol), which is less likely to cause intestinal bleeding.

What about iron supplements?

Too much iron can be as troublesome as too little. Before taking a supplement, ask your doctor for a blood test to confirm you’re deficient if any of the following statements are true:

  • You’re a vegetarian.
  • You have an ulcer, gastritis, celiac disease, or another digestive problem.
  • You have heavy periods.
  • You’ve been pregnant in the last year.
  • You regularly take dugs (like NSAIDs or heartburn meds) that reduct iron absorption.
  • You often donate blood.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Reverse Aging.

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