Have you been feeling fatigued, weak, or short of breath? Are you easily chilled (including cold hands and feet) and having headaches. If so, you may have iron deficiency anemia.
In this video, Amanda Haney will teach you about iron deficiency anemia, including what it is and how you can improve it by consuming foods high in iron.
If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.
What is iron deficiency anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia occurs when your body does not have enough iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is what helps your blood cells carry oxygen to your tissues. When you don’t have enough iron, your muscles and tissues can’t get the oxygen they need.
If you have iron deficiency anemia you may feel general fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, easily chilled or cold hands and feet, and headaches. Your doctor may diagnose you with this condition if lab results show iron in your blood is low, specifically serum ferritin.
Iron is a mineral that comes from the foods we eat, so it is easy to treat this condition with changes to your diet. Here are a few I recommend.
Eat high iron foods
First, choose foods that are high in iron. It is important to know there are two types of iron in foods: heme iron and non-heme iron. Your body is able to absorb heme iron better than non-heme iron.
Heme iron comes from meat products. In order of highest to lowest iron content, this includes chicken and beef liver, beef, pork, chicken, and seafood.
On the other hand, non-heme iron comes from plant food sources. In order of highest to lowest iron content, this includes spinach, beans and lentils, fortified breakfast cereals, baked potato (with the skin), prunes, other dried fruits like raisins and apricots, and nuts (especially cashews and almonds).
Don’t forget the Vitamin C
Next, pair foods that are high in iron with foods that help your body absorb iron. Foods rich in Vitamin C increase iron absorption. I recommend you consider foods such as citrus fruits, kiwi, pineapple, or mango, broccoli, bell peppers, brussel sprouts, or tomatoes.
Personally, my favorite iron-rich breakfast is oatmeal with nut butter and a glass of orange juice. One of my patients started adding chopped tomatoes to her steak for an iron-rich dinner which is a creative combination I like to share.
Find the duo of iron and Vitamin C that work best for you!
Foods to avoid
Finally, avoid foods that block iron absorption when you are eating iron-rich foods. These foods include coffee, tea, foods high in calcium (like dairy products), and foods high in phytates. Phytates are compounds located in the outer layer of nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. You can reduce phytates in these foods by soaking them before cooking for up to 24 hours.
Honestly, you don’t need to eliminate these foods from your diet or use complicated methods. Instead, simply plan your meals carefully so you don’t eat these foods at the same time that you eat iron-rich foods.
People at risk of iron deficiency anemia
Lastly, certain people have a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia, these people include infants and children, pregnant women, women of childbearing age, vegetarians or vegans, and those with intestinal conditions like Chron’s disease or gastrointestinal surgeries. These specific conditions may require additional iron supplements. Work closely with your registered dietitian and your doctor to determine if supplements are necessary for you.
Whether you have been diagnosed, or know you may be at risk, these changes can help to treat and prevent iron deficiency anemia. Meet with your registered dietitian today to begin increasing the iron from your meals!