Anaemia Lifestyle Patient Awareness

Iron Deficiency – Foods That Can Help Manage It!

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Feeling fatigued without any reason? If you are looking pale, complain of dizziness often and have brittle nails you might be suffering from anaemia, an astonishingly common issue. Children, pregnant and menstruating women need more iron in their diet than men and menopausal women. You might be eating healthy, but if you don’t make a conscious effort to add iron to your diet or eat iron-rich foods, you may get Anemic. While the doctor may put you on iron supplements, there are ingenious ways of adding iron to your diet for better results. Here are six ways.

Eat Iron and Vitamin C-rich Food

That’s a no-brainer. Eating food rich in iron and accompanying them with vitamin C rich food will reduce your Anemic condition.  Iron is a mineral that is used to carry oxygen throughout the body. It also helps in making and maintaining red blood cells1. The lack of iron leads to anaemia. The recommended daily intake value of iron is 18mg. Various foods that are rich in iron are:

  • Shellfish – 100 grams of shellfish contain about 28mg of iron. It provides heme iron which is easier for our body to absorb. Apart from iron, it also provides 26 grams of protein, 37% of RDI for Vitamin C and 1648% RDI for Vitamin B12. All these nutrients help in increasing the level of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol in the blood2.
  • Spinach– 100 grams of cooked spinach provides 3.6 mg of non-heme iron. Spinach is very rich in Vitamin C. Along with iron, the consumption of Vitamin C is crucial because this particular Vitamin helps in the absorption of iron in the body3.
  • Broccoli– A serving of Broccoli packs 168% of RDI for Vitamin C.4 It is also rich in Vitamin K, folate, and iron.
  • Tofu– One serving of tofu provides 19% of RDI for iron and is also packed with other proteins and minerals. Isoflavones from tofu helps in improving heart health and relieve various menopausal symptoms.5

So, pair your spinach and other leafy greens, which are teeming with iron, with a dash of lemon. Broccoli and tomatoes, kale and oranges, lentils and lemon are some standard combinations that you could try out. Vitamin C helps the body to better absorb the iron in the food.

Eat Meat and Seafood

Red meat and seafood have an abundance of iron. If you are a non-vegetarian, healthy, low-calorie recipes using seafood, poultry and red meat abound the internet. Making these a regular part of your diet will ensure your HB levels will stay above average.

Researchers have found that iron deficiency risks are lesser in people who consume poultry, meat, and fish on a regular basis.8

  • Red Meat- 100 grams of red meat like ground beef contains 2.7 mg of iron which is about 15% of the RDI. It is also very rich in Vitamin Bs, selenium, zinc, and protein which are all very beneficial for the overall health of the human body. It has been observed in a particular study that after aerobic exercise, women who consumed meat had better iron retention capabilities than the ones who took iron supplements.9

Eat Sprouts

When it comes to vegetarian food, sprouts are the best option in case you want to increase your iron intake. Loaded with protein, vitamin C, and iron, they can be consumed in salads, as curries or as part of a rice dish. Eating sprouts daily has manifold advantages.

Eat Dark Chocolate

Yes, you read that right. Dark chocolate is a rich source of iron. Eating a bit after every meal will go a long way in adding to your body’s iron reserves. 28 grams of dark chocolate contains 3.3 mg of iron which is around 18% of the RDI. A study showed that dark chocolate and cocoa powder have more antioxidant activity than juices and powders made from blueberries and acai berries.6 Dark chocolate also helps in keeping cholesterol levels low and reduces the risks of strokes and heart attacks.7

To add more punch and flavour, consume your dark chocolate bits with strawberries (rich in Vitamin C). Who said the iron-rich food has to be boring and a dreary prospect.

Bread and Cereals

Whole wheat bread, wheat products, cream of wheat, cornmeal, enriched rice, enriched white bread, enriched pasta, bran cereals, oat cereal, and rye bread can all be good sources of iron for the human body.

Eats Lots of Fruits

Fruits can be your saving grace even in this case too. Have lots of watermelon, date, prune, dried apricots, strawberries, olives, raisins, figs, and dried peaches to be at the pink of your health while pushing up the iron level in your body. One cup of prune juice is capable of offering 3mg of iron. 100 grams of olives contain about 3.3 mg of iron (18% of the RDI). Olives are also known to decrease the risk of suffering from heart diseases.

Use Iron Cookware

Move over non-stick pots, the spotlight is on cast iron pans. Cooking your food in iron cookware, just like our grandmothers, ensures that some of the iron mixes into our food making it healthier. You might get a distinct taste of iron in your food if you are cooking something acidic like tomatoes or tomato-based dishes like pasta and pizza sauces but cooking in cast iron pans will add that extra boost to your iron intake.

Avoid Tea and Coffee

Your regular cup of tea and coffee might be interfering with your iron absorption. The tannins (from tea) and caffeine (from coffee) work against the assimilation of iron. Limit your intake, if you cannot avoid altogether.

According to studies, drinking tea and coffee along with meals can reduce the absorption of iron by 50% to 90%. Vegetarians do not need to worry. There are quite a few vegetarian alternatives for all the iron-rich meat, seafood, and poultry. Here are a few vegetarian foods that are high in iron content:

  • Natto, Tofu, Soybeans, and Tempeh
  • Chickpeas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds
  • Cashews, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, almonds
  • Spinach, kale, swiss chard, beet greens, collard
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Palm hearts
  • Prune juice
  • Mulberries
  • Olives
  • Amaranth, Spelt
  • Oats, quinoa
  • Blackstrap molasses, coconut milk, dried thyme

It is important to not mix iron-rich meals and calcium supplements. Also, women who are pregnant must maintain a four-hour gap between iron supplement intake and calcium intake.

Summing up, both heme iron and non-heme iron intake is necessary for people suffering from anaemia. If you do not like meat, seafood, or eggs, make sure you maintain a balance by having other foods that are rich in iron. Heme iron is found in animals, non-heme iron is found in plants. Post-menopausal women and men are said to require 8mg of iron every day. For menstruating and pregnant women, the daily amount that is required shoots up to 18 mg and 27 mg respectively. Have food rich in iron and Vitamin C to make sure the iron in your body gets absorbed properly. Talk to your doctor and consult a nutritionist to get yourself a proper diet chart. Be careful with iron supplements because iron toxicity could be deadly.

You have to remember that even though your body is capable of storing iron, it doesn’t have the sources or mechanisms to replenish it when in need. Have enough ham, turkey, tuna, broccoli, cereals, raisins, lentils, as per your body’s requirement and convenience and get rid of anaemia for good.

Also Read: Best Foods for Anaemia

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