Foods to Fight Iron Deficiency
Disclaimer: Not medical or professional advice.
How to Overcome Iron Deficiency
- Prepare gastrointestinal mucosa for iron absorption. If you have constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, gastritis, even high doses of iron supplements will not work. Set up an appointment with your doctor to treat these conditions.
- Choose high-iron foods. The only natural way to keep the body’s iron levels normal is through a healthy and nutritious diet. Iron-rich foods are widely available today and easy to cook. However, they often come into focus by the time we have already experienced symptoms of iron deficiency.
Iron in animal products. For example, animal products contain organic divalent heme iron. Interestingly, its absorption is hardly influenced by other food constituents.
Heme iron is found in large amounts in meat and offal, as well as fish and seafood.
Iron in plant-based foods. Inorganic non-heme iron is found in plant products. It is represented as free-base ionic forms of ferrous or ferric iron.
It should be noted that non-heme iron is less readily absorbed. And ferric iron absorption can only be enhanced with organic acids because the bioavailability for ferric iron rarely exceeds 4%.
This problem can be solved, though — through the use of iron-rich plant foods in combination with acidic juices, citrus fruits, and other foods containing vitamin C. In this case, ferric iron is converted to ferrous iron and can be absorbed by the body.
Top 5 Best High-Iron Foods
- Seafood. For example, a serving of mussels (200 grams) contains a whopping 6.4 mg of iron. Seafood is known as a particularly good source of iron. It is important to remember that a lot of the iron in shellfish is heme iron, which your body absorbs more easily.
- Liver and meat. Beef offal and meat contain high levels of iron. Every 100 grams of the meat product has 6.9 mg of this trace element. Just like seafood, meat and organ meats are a source of heme iron, which ensures a much easier absorption.
- Legumes. Your diet should include beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans, especially if you don't eat meat. Legumes are loaded with iron: for example, a 100-gram serving of white beans offers a daily requirement for dietary fiber and 6 mg of iron. However, there is one problem. They also contain a substance (phytic acid) that inhibits iron absorption in the body. But it can be solved by soaking the legumes overnight, which will greatly reduce their phytate content and improve further absorption of iron.
- Sesame. Sesame contains a whopping 16 mg of iron. It is worth noting that sesame seeds should first be soaked or eaten in the ground form as a paste.
- Quinoa. A 185-gram serving of cooked quinoa provides 2.8 mg of iron.
What Increases the Absorption of Iron?
- Vitamin C.
- Protein – meat, fish, poultry.
- Lactic acid contained in fermented milk products and other organic acids.
- B-group vitamins.
What Foods Should you Avoid when Taking Iron?
- Tannins — coffee, tea, pomegranate, wine, persimmon, eucalyptus.
- Phytates — whole grains, cereals (not steamed), and nuts.
- Dietary fiber of cereals, vegetables, and fruits that isn’t digested — nearly all raw fruits and vegetables
- dairy products.
- Fried and spicy food, spices, and kitchen herbs.
- Processed and pre-cooked foods – salami, sausages, etc.
All these steps are aimed at reducing the load on the gastrointestinal tract. After all, it’s where the iron is absorbed. With proper treatment of iron deficiency, anemia usually resolves within 1–2 months. However, iron supplements should be taken somewhat longer (to replenish the body’s iron stores fully).
Learn More about Iron Aeficiency
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