Anemia is a condition when the body doesn’t have an adequate amount of healthy red blood cells. Excessive blood loss, destruction of red blood cells or the body’s inability to make sufficient red blood cells are the primary causes of anemia. There are several types of anemia, and the most common type is iron deficiency anemia.
Red blood cells comprise a protein called haemoglobin which is piled with iron. When there is a deficiency of iron, the body cannot produce the haemoglobin, which the system requires to make red blood cells to supply nutrients and oxygenated blood to all the vital organs. As per the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder across the globe. The WHO report reveals that prolonged iron deficiency results in anemia in about 30% of the global populace.
As per statistics, 46% of girls under the age of 15 are anaemic in India. According to the National Family Health Survey report 2019, more than 55% of women in India are anaemic.
Some of the contributing factors that increase the risk of anemia in women include heavy menstrual blood loss, uterine fibroids and pregnancy. Iron deficiency develops when the food one consumes does not supply an adequate amount of iron. Also, a deficiency of folate and vitamin B12 may impact the body’s ability to make red blood cells. If the system cannot make B 12 adequately, then you may develop pernicious anemia.
Extreme fatigue is the most obvious symptom of anemia. Depending on the cause of anemia, you may or may not show symptoms. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Irregular heartbeats
- Cold hands and feet
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
A wholesome diet rich in iron, B vitamins and vitamin C can help the body pump iron reserves and combat anemia.
Diet Plan For Anemia
Making necessary dietary modifications is a vital part of anemia treatment. The best diet for anemia includes food loaded with iron and other vital vitamins needed to make haemoglobin and red blood cell production. The diet regimen should also have foods that support the body to absorb iron well. There are two types of iron-rich food which include heme and non-heme foods.
Heme iron is mainly abundant in meat, poultry and seafood, while nonheme iron is found in plant foods and foods fortified with iron. The human body can absorb both these types, but bioavailability from heme sources is more.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) as per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for iron is 19 milligrams (mg) for men and 29 mg for women, excluding pregnant and lactation women.
Add these foods to your meal plan to boost your iron levels naturally.
Foods To Include:
Green vegetables, specifically the leafy dark ones are the best sources of nonheme iron, which include spinach, moringa leaves, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard to mention a few. Certain green leaves like Swiss chard and collard green are also packed with folate. A diet low in folate may cause folate deficiency anemia. Citrus fruits, beans and whole-grain cereals are abundant sources of folate.
Moreover, while eating dark, leafy greens for iron there’s a knock. Spinach and kale rich in iron are also high in oxalates, which can bind iron limiting the absorption of nonheme iron.
On the other hand, vitamin C supports the stomach absorb iron, thus having leafy green foods rich in vitamin C like oranges, bell peppers, potatoes, amla and guava may enhance iron absorption.
Meat And Seafood
All meats and poultry are the best sources of heme iron. Consuming meat or poultry with vitamin C-rich foods can up iron content. Even organ meat products like liver are a bountiful source of iron and folate.
Seafood like fish, crabs, shrimp, and oysters offer heme iron and aid to improve iron content.
Eggs are a source of complete proteins and boast a high content of iron. Eggs can be combined with whole-grain toast, quinoa, and stir-fried vegetables for a wholesome meal that will offer energy, protein, and iron to kick-start your day.
Beans are an impressive source of iron and proteins for vegetarians. They also contain fibre, other vitamins, and minerals that form a distinct and wholesome food for optimizing overall health.
Some of the iron-rich sources include:
- Kidney beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Black beans
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are blessed with a treasure trove of nutrients that offer indispensable health benefits. They are also packed with iron that aids to combat iron deficiency anemia. Some nuts and seeds that are abundant sources of iron include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- hemp seeds
- sunflower seeds
Almonds are also a great source of iron, but they are also rich in calcium, as calcium binds with iron and inhibits absorption it may not increase iron levels. While pistachios offer 6 % of the daily value of iron.
There is a broad range of foods that are fortified with iron, and you can incorporate these into your meal regimen if you are vegetarian or cannot get from other sources of iron.
- Fortified ready-to-eat cereals
- Fortified pasta
- Fortified rice
- Fortified orange juice
- Foods fortified with white flour, like bread
Guidelines To Follow
- Never have iron-rich foods with foods or beverages that hinder iron absorption, which include coffee, tea, and foods high in calcium and oxalates
- Have iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources like oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, or strawberries to enhance absorption
- Eat iron-rich foods along foods abundant in beta-carotene like apricots, beetroots, carrots, and bell peppers to promote iron absorption
- Include a range of heme and nonheme iron sources throughout the day to pump your iron reserves
- Have foods rich in folate and vitamin B-12 to improve red blood cell production
Well, no single food will treat anemia, eating wholesome and varied diet rich in dark, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, lean meat, seafood, and beans along vitamin C-rich foods can help the body to boost iron levels and combat anemia. Cooking in cast iron vessels can promotes iron absorption from the skillet. Acidic ones retain the most iron and foods cooked for shorter periods of time absorb the least.
Iron supplements can also help, but before taking supplements talk with your doctor about the right one and dosage.