Iron is a mineral that serves several important functions, its main being to carry oxygen throughout your body and making red blood cells. It’s an essential nutrient, meaning you must get it from food. The recommended daily intake (RD I) is 18 mg. Interestingly, the amount your body absorbs is partly based on how much you have stored. A deficiency can occur if your intake is too low to replace the amount you lose every day.
IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA
Iron deficiency anemia is when a lack of iron in the body means that the blood does not produce enough hemoglobin — the iron-based pigment in red blood cells that gives them their color and carries oxygen.
Not all people who are low in iron have iron deficiency anemia – severe and prolonged iron deficiency is needed to cause anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia, one of several types of anemia, is common in Australia, particularly in women, premature or very small babies, children and people on restricted diets. Iron deficiency anemia is usually easy to treat
CAUSES OF IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA
- Not eating enough the foods that contain iron.
- Chronic blood loss e.g. bleeding ulcer. bleeding hemorrhoids, parasites (hookworms etc) malignancy or excessive menstrual flow
- Increased need by the body for iron e.g. during infancy, childhood (important growing years), puberty, pregnancy and when lactating (breast feeding)
- Less iron is being absorbed by the body
Symptoms of iron deficiency
- brittle nails and hair
- poor appetite
- poor growth and weight gain
- lack of concentration
HOW IS IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA DIAGNOSED
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical examination, looking for signs of anemia and iron deficiency.
If they suspect iron deficiency anemia, they may also ask about your diet and other possible causes.
If your anemia is not severe you may not have any symptoms and may be diagnosed following a routine blood test.
Your doctor will recommend blood tests to determine whether you have iron deficiency anemia, and possibly further tests to work out the cause.
- A full blood count and blood film show the hemoglobin level, plus the number and size of red blood cells. A low hemoglobin plus red blood cells that are smaller than normal and pale in color are features of iron-deficiency anemia.
- Iron studies (including iron, ferritin and transferrin) measure iron and iron stores in the body.
Other tests may be needed to see if there is any bleeding in your stomach or bowel, or a condition which may be affecting the absorption of iron.
Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist (a specialist in conditions affecting the digestive tract) or surgeon, who may recommend an endoscopy and/or colonoscopy to investigate your digestive tract.
Further investigation of women with heavy periods may involve an ultrasound of the pelvis to determine if there is an underlying cause, such as fibroids in the uterus (womb).
TREATMENT FOR IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA
Treatment for iron deficiency anemia involves treating the underlying cause of your anemia and replacing iron with iron supplements and a good diet.
Your blood count will be checked regularly to make sure the anemia has not returned.
Foods High in Iron for Anemia: IRON-RICH DIET
Want to know what foods are high in iron? Then follow our research below on comprehensive list of foods which are rich in Iron.
Broccoli is incredibly nutritious. A 1-cup (156-gram) serving of cooked broccoli contains 1 mg of iron, which is 6% of the RDI, making it a fairly good source among iron enriched foods.
What’s more, a serving of broccoli also packs 168% of the RDI for vitamin C, which helps your body absorb the iron better.
The same serving size is also high in fol-ate and provides 6 grams of fiber, as well as some vitamin K.
Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage.
Cruciferous vegetables contain indole, sulforaphane and glucosinolates, which are plant compounds believed to be protective against cancer.
Shellfish is tasty and nutritious. All shellfish is high in iron, but clams, oysters and mussels are particularly good sources of Iron.
For instance, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of clams may contain up to 28 mg of iron, which is 155% of the RDI.
However, the iron content of clams is highly variable, and some types may contain much lower amounts.
The iron in shellfish is heme iron, which your body absorbs more easily than the non-heme iron found in plants.
A serving of clams also provides 26 grams of protein, 37% of the RDI for vitamin C and a whopping 1,648% of the RDI for vitamin B12.
In fact, all shellfish is high in nutrients and has been shown to increase the level of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol in your blood (5).
Although there are legitimate concerns about mercury and toxins in certain types of fish and shellfish, the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks (6).
Legumes are loaded with nutrients and sources of Iron.
Some of the most common types of legumes are beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas and soybeans.
They’re a great source of iron, especially for vegetarians. One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains 6.6 mg, which is 37% of the RDI.
Legumes are also rich in folate, magnesium and potassium.
What’s more, studies have shown that beans and other legumes can reduce inflammation in people with diabetes. Legumes can also decrease heart disease risk for people with metabolic syndrome.
Additionally, legumes may help you lose weight. They’re very high in soluble fiber, which can increase feelings of fullness and reduce calorie intake.
In one study, a high-fiber diet containing beans was shown to be as effective as a low-carb diet for weight loss.
In order to maximize iron absorption, consume legumes with foods high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, greens or citrus fruits.
4. RED MEAT
Red meat is satisfying and nutritious. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of ground beef contains 2.7 mg of iron, which is 15% of the RDI.
Meat is also rich in protein, zinc, selenium and several B vitamins.
Researchers have suggested that iron deficiency may be less likely in people who eat meat, poultry and fish on a regular basis.
In fact, red meat is probably the single most easily accessible source of heme iron, potentially making it an important food for people who are prone to anemia.
In one study looking at changes in iron stores after aerobic exercise, women who consumed meat retained iron better than those who took iron supplements.
5. PUMPKIN SEEDS
Pumpkin seeds are a tasty, portable snack.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of pumpkin seeds contains 4.2 mg of iron, which is 23% of the RDI.
In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin K, zinc and manganese. They’re also among the best sources of magnesium, which many people are deficient in.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving contains 37% of the RDI for magnesium, which helps reduce your risk of insulin resistance, diabetes and depression.
Quinoa is a popular grain known as a pseudocereal. One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa provides 2.8 mg of iron, which is 15% of the RDI.
Furthermore, quinoa contains no gluten, making it a good choice for people with celiac disease or other forms of gluten intolerance.
Quinoa is also higher in protein than many other grains, as well as rich in folate, magnesium, copper, manganese and many other nutrients.
In addition, quinoa has more antioxidant activity than many other grains. Antioxidants help protect your cells from the damage done by free radicals, which are formed during metabolism and in response to stress.
Turkey meat is a healthy and delicious food. It’s also a good source of iron — especially dark turkey meat.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of dark turkey meat has 2.3 mg of iron, which is 13% of the RDI.
In comparison, the same amount of white turkey meat contains only 1.3 mg.
Turkey also packs an impressive 29 grams of protein per serving and several B vitamins and minerals, including 30% of the RDI for zinc and 58% of the RDI for selenium.
Consuming high-protein foods like turkey may aid weight loss since protein makes you feel full and increases your metabolic rate after a meal.
High protein intake can also help prevent the muscle loss that occurs during weight loss and as part of the aging process.
Tofu is a soy-based food that’s popular among vegetarians and in some Asian countries.
A half-cup (126-gram) serving provides 3.6 mg of iron, which is 19% of the RDI.
Tofu is also a good source of thiamine and several minerals, including calcium, magnesium and selenium. In addition, it provides 20 grams of protein per serving.
Tofu also contains unique compounds called isoflavones, which have been linked to improved insulin sensitivity, a decreased risk of heart disease and relief from menopausal symptoms.
9. DARK CHOCOLATE
Dark chocolate is incredibly delicious and nutritious.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving contains 3.3 mg of iron, which is 19% of the RDI.
This small serving also packs 25% and 16% of the RDIs for copper and magnesium respectively.
In addition, it contains prebiotic fiber, which nourishes the friendly bacteria in your gut.
A study found that cocoa powder and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity than powders and juices made from acai berries and blueberries.
Studies have also shown that chocolate has beneficial effects on cholesterol and may reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
However, not all chocolate is created equal. It’s believed that compounds called flavanols are responsible for chocolate’s benefits, and the flavanol content of dark chocolate is much higher than that of milk chocolate.
Therefore, it’s best to consume chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa to get the maximum benefits
Spinach provides many health benefits for very few calories.
3.5 ounces (100 grams) of cooked spinach contain 3.6 mg of iron, or 20% of the RDI.
Although this is non-heme iron, which isn’t absorbed very well, spinach is also rich in vitamin C.
This is important since vitamin C significantly boosts iron absorption.
Spinach is also rich in antioxidants called carotenoids that may reduce your risk of cancer, decrease inflammation and protect your eyes from disease.
Consuming spinach and other leafy greens with fat helps your body absorb the carotenoids, so make sure to eat a healthy fat like olive oil with your spinach.
11. LIVER AND OTHER ORGAN MEAT
Organ meats are extremely nutritious. Popular types include liver, kidneys, brain and heart — all of which are high in iron.
For example, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef liver contains 6.5 mg of iron, or 36% of the RDI.
Organ meats are also high in protein and rich in B vitamins, copper and selenium. Liver is especially high in vitamin A, providing an impressive 634% of the RDI per serving.
What’s more, organ meats are among the best sources of choline, an important nutrient for brain and liver health that many people don’t get enough of.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Iron is an important mineral that must be consumed regularly as your body cannot produce it on its own.
Yet it should be noted that some people need to limit their intake of red meat and other foods high in heme iron.
However, most people are easily able to regulate the amount they absorb from food.
Remember that if you don’t eat meat or fish, you can boost absorption by including a source of vitamin C when eating plant sources of iron.