Today every third person is suffering from anemia in India. Anemia has become a very common problem among youth. Earlier it was only women, who used to suffer from it, but today even a small kid can also have it. Basically, let us understand what is iron deficiency anemia and how is it caused?

  • What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia?
  • How Does Your Body Use Iron In Food?
  • Top 10 Foods That Can Help Combat Iron Deficiency Anemia
  • How To Make The Most Of Iron In Your Food?
  • Is It True That Vegetarians Do Not Get Enough Iron?

What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron deficiency anemia occurs when your blood is short of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is like the lifeline of the body. It supplies oxygen to the body tissues. Hemoglobin helps in maintaining the shape of red blood cells. If your body does not produce enough red blood cells or when your hemoglobin level is low, then your body does not get enough oxygen. This lack of oxygen will make your body tired, exhausted and irritable.
Foods to combat anemia
Red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes, are the most common blood cells in the body. When your blood count is too low because of lack of oxygen caused by less iron in your blood, that’s when you are anemic. There are lot of factors that determine that you are anemic like bone marrow failure, leukemia or some strong cancer medicines. But most common reasons for anemia, which occur in day to day life are poor diet, excessive bleeding during pregnancy or during menstrual cycles. Normally when you are anemic, you experience fatigue, loss of energy, dizziness and leg cramps. Almost 50% of pregnant women suffer from iron deficiency anemia.

How Does Your Body Use Iron In Food?

When one consumes iron rich foods, the body absorbs the iron from the upper part of the small intestine. As webmd.com states, ‘There are two forms of dietary iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin. It is found in animal foods that originally contained hemoglobin, such as red meats, fish, and poultry. Your body absorbs the most iron from heme sources. Non-heme iron is from plant sources.’

Top 10 Foods That Can Help Combat Iron Deficiency Anemia

However, there are foods that help you fight anemia. Let us take a quick look at these nutritional foods. To combat anemia, you will need foods rich in iron.

  1. Spinach: Vegetables are essential part of our diet. Spinach tops our list in iron rich food. It is low in calories and rich in minerals. Your body needs iron to produce sufficient hemoglobin and spinach gives you that required iron
  2. Lentils: 100 gms of boiled dal contains 3.3 mg of iron. Lentils are also loaded with proteins. Lentils are not limited to tur dal but extend to masur dal, chana dal, moong dal and urad dal. Include it daily in your diet
  3. Legumes: Various legumes are rich source of iron. Legumes are extensions of lentils. Legumes like chick peas, black eyed peas, beans like kidney beans and pinto beans are iron fortified. A serving size of one single cup can supply up to a quarter of your recommended daily iron intake
  4. Fenugreek: Also called Methi is used as a herb and spice. It is most common ingredient in our day to day life especially in winter. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and also give you iron.iron rich foods
  5. Dry Fruits: Raisins, dried peaches and apricots are the most nutritious iron friendly dry fruits. Have a handful of these dried fruits with cereals or just have it plain. 1 ounce of peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, roasted almonds, roasted cashews can give you about 0.7 milligrams or more of non-heme iron.
  6. Beet root: Having beet root juice daily is the best natural remedy for anemia. Beet root has properties of cleansing your system thereby restoring red blood cells and supplying oxygen to the blood
  7. Poultry: Poultry products like chicken, liver, beef, lamb and pork are the healthiest product of iron among meat eaters
  8. Sea food: Our body needs the mineral iron for manufacturing heme – a compound that contains iron. Sea food like oyster, shell fish, fish are very rich in iron. Infact, 3 ounces of oysters can give you about 3.5 milligrams or more iron per serving
  9. Tofu / Paneer: Tofu is healthier than paneer as it has iron content than paneer. Before tofu made its way in the Indian market, paneer was considered the healthiest option of iron and calcium. Though paneer is a milk product and a source of calcium, but calcium is also known as Iron Absorption Inhibitor. One-half cup of tofu contains as much as 3.5 milligrams or more iron per serving
  10. Fresh fruits: When one wants to increase their iron intake, fruit is the last option in their mind. But Water melon has iron content. Even dried peaches and apricots are rich in iron

How To Make The Most Of Iron In Your Food?

Not all iron from the food you eat gets inside your system. That is because consumption of some foods can hinder your absorption of iron. As a rule, avoid eating calcium-rich foods with iron-rich foods, like ‘palak paneer’. Also, do not have caffeinated drinks with your meals. If you still have trouble with getting enough iron, seek your doctor’s advice who can prescribe some iron supplements for you.

Is It True That Vegetarians Do Not Get Enough Iron?

Though it is believed that vegetarians do not get much iron from their diet but that’s not true. As a thumb rule, meat is considered the healthiest form of iron. But over centuries, it is proved that vegetarians and vegans have other means of gaining iron. Women (ages 19-50) need approximately 18 mg per day and pregnant Women need approximately 27 mg per day. There are other foods like coconut, olives, sprouts, soy beans, sesame seeds, almond and many other foods give iron in some way or other. Eat iron rich foods daily and stay healthy.

Click here to read about Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pregnancy.
Click here to read on Iron Deficiency Anemia in Toddlers.