How a Lucky Charm Is Solving One of the World’s Largest Health Problems

© Photo CARE Benin 2022

By Raye Mocioiu

Iron deficiency is the world’s largest nutritional challenge, with research from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggesting that as many as 80 percent of people worldwide do not have enough iron in their bodies.

Across the globe, over two billion people are iron deficient, most commonly women, children, and teens. Canadian company Lucky Iron Fish is striving to change that with the help of a little good luck charm.

In 2008, University of Guelph PhD student Christopher Charles was researching anemia in Cambodia and found that nearly half of the women and children were afflicted by iron deficiency anemia. Their symptoms ranged from inconvenient to deadly, and Charles knew he needed to do something to help.

At the same time, Gavin Armstrong was working on his Masters degree at the University of Guelph, volunteering and fundraising in refugee camps in Kenya and Dadaab, and conducting PhD research on solutions to combat malnutrition.

With a similar goal of finding creative solutions to tackle hidden hunger, Armstrong and Charles connected and developed the Lucky Iron Fish.

Dr. Gavin Armstrong © Richard Root
Lucky Iron Fish surrounded by grains
Lucky Iron Fish and legumes © Richard Root

While there are many ways to increase one’s iron intake, such as iron-rich foods and supplements, these options were not available in rural regions of Cambodia. However, Charles wanted to determine if placing a small piece of iron in a standard cooking pot would have similar iron-releasing results as a cast-iron pan.

They distributed iron blocks to local Cambodian women for them to use in cooking pots but found that the women, confused and uninterested, were using them as doorstops instead. Armstrong and Charles decided to change their approach, shaping the iron block into the form of a fish—a sign of luck in Cambodian culture. This time, the recipients were far more interested in putting the fish to use.

Iron is a vital mineral that feeds your body and your brain. Without adequate iron, the body is starved for oxygen. Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are linked to poor maternal health, poor cognitive development, frequently falling sick, and much more.

Using Lucky Iron Fish is simple: Add it to slightly acidified boiling liquid for 10 minutes. You can add it to water with a little bit of citrus or vinegar, or to soup, curry, etc.

When added to the slightly acidified boiling liquid, the Fish/Leaf will release microscopic iron particles off its surface and into the liquid!

Making simple changes to the diet, such as adding more iron-rich ingredients or iron-fortified meals to your daily diet, can help avoid or address iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. The Lucky Iron Fish was designed to provide a consistent boost of iron that so many women and children, not just in Cambodia but across the globe, are lacking.

“I am a firm believer that businesses have a responsibility to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges,” says founder Gavin Armstrong. “And one of the biggest challenges we face today is that of hidden hunger. Over 1/3 of the world’s population goes to bed malnourished.

“I had a vision for my company to become a global leader in health innovation to improve the lives of two billion people who suffer from iron deficiency, the majority of whom are women, children, and those living in impoverished communities. Lucky Iron Fish was designed to serve as a simple solution to this complex problem. We are on a mission to make iron deficiency a thing of the past, one fish at a time.”

Iron-Enriched Veggie Loaded Vegan Pho

© Unsplash/Jennifer Schmidt

Staying in? This iron-infused Veggie Loaded Vegan Pho recipe will keep you warm AND keep your immunity strong.

Like all good Pho, there are layers of flavour and texture that go into this recipe. This dish can be a labour of love or a quick dish you put together. The best part? The toppings are all up to you!

Enjoy this nutrient-packed bowl of goodness!


  • 2 whole star anise
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 yellow onion
  • Thumb of ginger
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
  • ¼ miso paste
  • 1 lime
  • Cilantro, to taste
  • Mint, to taste
  • Thai basil, to taste
  • 1 Lucky Iron Fish or Leaf


Suggested toppings:

  • Raw peppers, thinly sliced
  • Cabbage
  • Jalapenos
  • Zucchini
  • Edamame
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Corn
  • Pan-fried mushrooms
  • Bean sprouts
  • Chili Oil
  • Sriracha



  1. Toast 2 whole star anise, 3 cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks in a dry stockpot on low heat for a minute.
  2. Once fragrant, add 1 yellow onion, quartered as well as 1 inch of ginger sliced thinly to the dry stockpot.
  3. Let it char a little for added flavour.



  1. Next, add 4 cups of vegetable broth and 1/4 cup of tamari and turn the heat to medium-high.
  2. Bring to a boil, then add your Lucky Iron Fish/ Leaf.
  3. After 10 minutes, remove the Fish/ Leaf and wash and dry it.
  4. Strain the broth to take out chunks of onions and ginger.



  1. Scoop out 1 cup of the iron infused broth.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of miso paste and stir till evenly combined.
  3. Pour it back in the stockpot with the broth and stir again.



  1. Add your favourite veggie toppings to the broth.
  2. Before serving, add freshly squeezed lime juice and freshly grated lime zest.
  3. Top with fresh mint, cilantro, and Thai basil.
  4. For an extra kick, add chilli oil or sriracha.

Get your free copy of Global Heroes, jam-packed with positive news, straight in your inbox.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Global Heroes Podcast


Subscribe to our Newsletter and Access all issues of Global Heroes News straight in your inbox. 100% free, no purchase necessary, for life. Uplifting stories, highlighting the inspirational efforts of everyday people, celebrities, and organizations, who are diligently working together towards practical solutions to global problems.