Health and nutrition are important factors that contribute to human resource development in the country and a study conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition shows that iron deficiency anaemia is one of the most common nutrition problems in India. Iron is an essential mineral that is pumped into the blood every single day. It serves the function of creating haemoglobin, an element in the red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. Around 65% of the iron in the body is present in the haemoglobin. It absorbs oxygen from the lungs and is transported through the bloodstream to the skin and muscle tissues. Iron also absorbs carbon dioxide from the body and transports it to the lungs where it is exhaled. It goes without saying, therefore, that iron is a mineral that is crucial for survival!
The lack of iron in the body results in anaemia, a condition in which there is a decreased number of red blood cells in the body. According to a study conducted by the Nutrition Society of India, 53% of women and 60% of children are affected by iron deficiency anaemia. This can be identified through blood tests during a master health checkup.
Best foods to raise iron levels
If you suffer from anaemia, there are numerous iron-rich foods you can eat to increase the level of iron in the body. This is important because the amount of iron that is absorbed depends upon the amount of iron-rich foods stored in the body. If you are iron deficient, add these foods to your shopping list right away:
Spinach is a vegetable that contains numerous health benefits and very few calories; 100 gms of cooked spinach has 3.6mg of iron or 20% of RDI (Recommended Dietary Intake). Research has shown that green leafy vegetables contain non-heme iron and are high in Vitamin C. They increase the body’s iron absorption capacity. According to a report by the NINI (National Institute of Nutrition), many plant-based foods like green leafy vegetables, legumes and dry fruits contain iron.
- Red meats
Red meat and ground beef are excellent options to increase the iron content in the body. 70% of the iron-heme present in red meats can be absorbed by the body. To receive the maximum benefit of red meat, it should be paired with vegetables that contain Vitamin C like strawberries and oranges. Research has shown that people who eat meat are less likely to be iron deficient. 1 portion of red meat has 2.7 mg of iron or 15% of the RDI.
Not only is shellfish incredibly tasty but it is also iron-rich. A 100 gram serving of shellfish contains 28 mg of iron (or 3 ounces) or 155% of RDI. Squeeze some lemon on the fish to maximise its benefits and boost your vitamin C levels. Shellfish is also known to increase the level of healthy HDL cholesterol in the blood.
It is no secret that legumes are good sources of iron. This includes foods such as lentils, beans and chickpeas that are great for fighting anaemia. One cup of legumes has 6.6 mg of iron or 37% of RDI. In order to combat iron deficiency, consume legumes with foods that are high in Vitamin C like tomatoes and greens.
Nuts like almonds and pistachios are nutrient-filled foods that are a great option for a daily snack. They are also iron-dense and good for those who experience iron deficiency. An ounce of pistachios will give you 6.1% of your daily iron content or 6-9% of RDI.
Many people eat quinoa as a replacement for rice because of its numerous health benefits. In addition to iron, quinoa also contains high levels of magnesium, copper and folate. They even contain antioxidants that protect the cells from damage. A single cup of quinoa contains 2.8 mg of iron or 15% of RDI. Other starches like whole grains, cereals and pasta are also great sources of iron.
Not only are eggs an excellent breakfast food that can be prepared in many different ways but they are also a great source of iron for fighting anaemia. You can have your eggs with a side of spinach or legumes such as roasted tomatoes for a hearty, iron-rich meal. Eggs include 10% of the RDI.
- Chicken breast
Chicken breast can be consumed in a variety of ways; it can be grilled or incorporated into other foods such as curry or fried rice. This lean meat is an excellent source of iron and is known for increasing levels of haemoglobin. 100 grams of chicken contains 0.7 mg of iron or 47% of RDI.
- Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is incredibly tasty and contains high nutrient levels. One ounce of dark chocolate contains 3.3 mg of iron or 19% of RDI and it contains antioxidants which reduce your risk of heart disease. Consuming dark chocolate is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth while getting the required levels of iron.
Iron is an essential nutrient for the body and it is important to consume iron-rich foods to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is easy to regulate iron levels by consuming foods rich in Vitamin C. Visit your nearest Neuberg Diagnostics centre to schedule a preventive health check to help you identify if you have an iron deficiency!