Chief Nutritionist, Possible
Suhasini Mudraganam is a leading food scientist who was instrumental in designing the Possible Food plan. She has done her MS in Nutrition from University of Missouri, USA and has over 14 years of global experience
WHO reported that Iron deficiency is the most common widespread nutritional disorder in the world. About 30% i.e, 2 Billion people of the world’s population are anaemic. Many of this population is due to iron deficiency.
But the relief is that this can be handled with iron-rich foods. Iron is a vital nutrient and it plays an important role in energy metabolism, growth, and repair of body tissues, nerve function, immunity and many other things.
Iron is needed for making haemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to all parts of our body. Lack of iron in the body was always linked to under-eating or undernourishment. That is why iron-containing foods should be an integral part of everyone’s diet.
To know more about food sources that can help you fight different nutrient deficiencies in your body, you can always consult a Possible Nutritionist right away. Click here to avail a FREE consultation!
What can I eat for low iron?
Is this question troubling you? Check out these 6 Iron rich foods that you must include in your diet.
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Dried fruits
- Lean Red Meats
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, especially among women.
Research has now proved that obesity can aggravate or even cause iron deficiency by inhibiting the absorption of dietary iron from the gut.
The Relation between Obesity & Iron Deficiency
Low iron levels lead to exhaustion and tiredness in your body. It also hinders weight loss by not letting you exercise due to exhaustion and breathlessness.
Inflammation caused by the excess fat in an overweight or obese individual increases a hormone called Hepcidin in the liver. High levels of Hepcidin lower iron absorption from the digestive system into the body cells.
Obesity leads to inflammation, promoting iron deficiency, tiredness, low energy levels and poor thyroid function. It’s a vicious cycle!
Here are a few symptoms that’ll help you identify an iron deficiency in an individual:
- Feeling tired and fatigued all the time
- Breathlessness or short of breath while takishortnessairs
- Skin becomes pale
- Hair loss or thinning of hair
- Heavy menstrual cycle in women
- Slow thyroid function
Get your Ferritin levels tested if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above.
Optimizing iron levels will not only improve the above-mentioned symptoms, but it can also help you lose weight by improving your thyroid function.
Which Iron Rich Foods can help in maintaining the Iron Levels?
Making a few changes in your current diet can easily increase your iron intake and also ensure better absorption. Iron is an interesting mineral because a few nutrients can hinder or enhance its absorption. It is important to plan your entire meal rather than just looking at individual iron-rich foods.
Incorporate iron-rich foods into your daily diet to increase your iron consumption. Consider soaking, roasting, sprouting or fermenting the grains. That will lower the levels of iron inhibitors called phytic acid in them.
Some of the sources of iron are grains like Buckwheat (Kuttu), Amaranth (Rajgira), Barnyard Millet (Hindi: Jhangora; Tamil: Kuthiravaali; Telugu: Odalu), Bajra, Jowar, Little millet (Samai), Oats and Quinoa.
Legumes and dals like cowpea, kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, lentils, moth beans, roasted Bengal gram are good sources of iron.
Ensure that you cook the legumes after soaking them for a few hours in warm water for better iron availability. Add vitamin C-rich foods like bell peppers, tomatoes or lemon juice to these preparations to absorb more iron.
Tips to Improve Iron Deficiency
1] Iron Rich Foods from Animal sources:
Combine animal foods with vegetables for better iron availability. Heme iron is the iron found in animal foods like lean red meats, chicken liver, fish, shrimp has better absorption than plant-based iron-rich foods.
2] Use iron vessels:
Yes, changing the cooking vessels can affect too. Therefore for cooking liquid foods like dals or to sauté vegetables, use iron vessels to increase the iron levels in the foods.
3] Include at least one green leafy vegetable:
Try to include green leafy veggies every day in any form in your diet. Palak dal will have a better absorption due to a combination of protein with greens.
4] Have Vitamin C rich foods:
Incorporate vitamin C-rich foods like amla, tomatoes, lemon juice, citrus fruits in the iron-rich meal to ensure optimum absorption of iron.
It has been found that nonheme iron, found in plant-based foods, when paired with Vitamin C rich foods there’s a boost in the iron absorption.
In severe iron deficiency cases, physicians recommend iron supplements. Consuming a citrus fruit like orange or any vitamin C rich fruit along with the supplement can enhance absorption.
5] Avoid iron inhibitors:
Tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolates contain iron inhibitors. Avoid drinking Tea or coffee 2 hours before or after an iron-rich meal.
6] Add sprouted pulses and lemon juice to vegetable salads.
7] Yellow, orange or red coloured fruits or vegetables
Rich in beta-carotene are shown to increase the iron absorption. Incorporate carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, red peppers in the diet.
Q. Which vegetables are high in iron?
A. Dark green leafy vegetables, Spinach, Kale, Beans, Peas, Asparagus etc are some vegetables that are rich sources of iron.
Q. What fish are high in iron?
A. Halibut, Salmon, Tuna, Haddock are some good fish sources of iron.
Q. What meat has the most iron?
A. Beef, Lamb, Ham, Turkey, Chicken, Pork etc. are good meat sources of iron.
Q. Which fruits contain iron?
A. Strawberries, Watermelon, Raisins, Dates, Figs, Dried apricots etc. are some fruits which are iron rich.
In controlling Iron deficiency, iron-rich foods play a vital role. That is why it is very important to know the different iron-containing foods and incorporating them accordingly.
If you know about any other food sources of iron that we may not have included, don’t forget to add them in the comments below!