For on-the-go dancers, iron is a must. Without enough of the mineral, it can lead to fatigue and a lowered immune function. That's why stocking your fridge with iron-rich foods is so important.
But it doesn't stop there. You should also make sure that other healthy habits, like drinking tea, aren't hampering your body's ability to absorb iron. According to research from the journal Food Science and Nutrition, micronutrients in tea, known as polyphenols, have been shown to limit iron absorption to a certain extent. However, Emily C. Harrison, a dietitian at Atlanta Ballet's Centre for Dance Nutrition, says that there are some dietary strategies that can improve iron absorption in healthy, tea-drinking dancers. Here are her top nutritional tips:
1. Stock your diet with a variety of foods high in iron, like beans, peas, leafy greens, chia seeds and meat, if you eat it. Vitamin C helps absorb iron from plant sources, so pair the two into the same meal or snack. Harrison recommends kale and red peppers gently sautéed in olive oil, with a squeeze of lemon juice as a dressing, or spinach and black bean tacos with fresh lime juice and cilantro.
2. Foods fortified with iron are also great choices. Try oatmeal, dry cereal and pasta made from red lentils or black beans.
3. Dancers drinking less than three cups of tea daily and eating iron-rich foods are at a lower risk for iron deficiency.
4. If a dancer is anemic, one to two cups of tea per day is still permissible, though they'll need to increase their intake of foods high in iron and possibly take a low-dose iron supplement, less than 18 milligrams. If anemia continues despite a dancer's iron-rich diet, consult a doctor to rule out other possible problems.