If you crave red meat then you are most likely craving the iron in the meat. You may also be craving other nutrients found within the red meat such as the vitamin B12, folic acid, and magnesium. Consider having your physician run a CBC with differential blood test and a separate ferritin test, which will measure your stored iron. Ferritin levels should be between 50ng/mL and 150ng/mL to be considered truly “normal.” Many labs and physicians are primarily concerned with pathology, and believe that ferritin levels in the teens are acceptable; however you’re hopefully concerned with feeling your best. You will almost always exhibit symptoms of low iron with ferritin levels below 35ng/mL. Between 35ng/mL and 55ng/mL you may notice your symptoms worsen during stress or for women, during your period.
If your lab results come back out of range, there are two reasons why going out to buy iron pills is not always the best solution. Firstly, even if your blood hemoglobin and/or hematocrit are low (normal hemoglobin is >12g/dL for women and >14g/dL for men; normal hematocrit is >37% for women and > 42% for men), it could be another nutrient problem such as vitamin B6, copper (excess or deficiency), or the mineral molybdenum. A low ferritin could be an iron absorption problem and many “cheap” store-bought or even the “pharmaceutical grade” iron supplements are hard to absorb and assimilate. Second, the ferritin issue is often also a protein/amino acid utilization issue, since ferritin is a protein itself.
So if you crave red meat, go eat a nice grass-fed steak, but have your blood levels checked for issues!
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