Iron deficiency anemia, which is quite common condition to us women, occurs because of a lack of the mineral iron in the body. Bone marrow, in the center of the bone, needs iron to make hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that transports oxygen to the body’s organs.
Without adequate iron, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells. The result is iron-deficiency anemia.
Initially, iron deficiency anemia can be so mild that it is very difficult to be noticed. But as the body becomes more deficient in iron and anemia worsens, the signs and symptoms intensify.
Iron deficiency anemia signs and symptoms may include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Headache, dizziness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Brittle nails
- Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
- Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia
How much iron do we need?
According to NZ nutrition foundation:
- Women (age 19-50) 18mg/day
- Women (over 50) 8mg/day
- Pregnant women (age 19-50) 27mg/day
- Breastfeeding women ( age 14-18) 10mg/day , (age 19 – 50) 9mg/day
Iron rich food
According to healthaliciousness.com
- Squash and Pumpkin Seeds — 15mg / 100g (83%DV)
- Liver (Chicken) — 13mg / 100g (72%DV)
- Seafood (Oysters, Mussels, Clams) — 9.2mg / 100g (51%DV)
- Nuts (Cashew, Pine, Hazelnut, Peanut, Almond) — 6.1mg / 100g (34%DV)
- Beef and Lamb (Lean Chuck Roast) — 3.8mg / 100g (21%DV)
- Beans and Pulses (White Beans, Lentils) — 3.7mg / 100g (21%DV)
- Whole Grains — 1.5mg / 100g (8%DV)
- Dark Leafy Greens — 3.6mg / 100g (21%DV)
- Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder — 17mg / 100g (97%DV)
- Tofu — 2.7mg / 100g (15%DV)
How to increase iron absorption
- Eat less at a time but throughout a day
When consuming higher amounts of iron at one time, the percentage that our bodies absorb is actually lower than when your meal contains only a few milligrams. Plant-based foods may contain less iron than animal foods, but eating smaller amounts throughout the day is a great way to increase absorption.
- Eat iron foods with vitamin C foods, and absorption can increase as much as five times.
The iron in beans, grains and seeds is better absorbed when combined with the vitamin-C found in fruits and vegetables. Bonus: some iron sources, like leafy greens, broccoli, and tomato sauce already contain vitamin-C.
- Avoid coffee and tea when eating high-iron meals.
Coffee (even decaf!) and tea contain tannins that inhibit iron absorption. It is recommend to avoid them an hour before or two hours after your meal.