Iron deficiency occurs when there is lack of sufficient iron in the blood. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the world. The fast growth of young children can be at risk if their iron requirements are not met adequately.
- Iron is needed by the body to perform a variety of functions — to form hemoglobin and myoglobin, compounds that carry oxygen in the blood and muscles.
- Iron deficiency can cause fatigue that impairs the ability to do physical work in adults. Without adequate iron, our muscles will not get the required oxygen which will lead to feelings of low energy, thus having a negative impact on our daily performance.
- Iron deficiency may also affect memory or other mental function in teens.
- Iron also helps to maintain important enzymes to enhance our immune system.
- It helps to produce collagen and is important in binding tissues together in the body.
Iron Deficiency In Woman
- Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency that affects women, as women lose more iron when they menstruate. The amount of iron women lose in their menstrual period averages around 1 mg or so for every day of bleeding.
- Women— especially when pregnant, lactating or trying to conceive or are on a very low cal diet — should be especially careful. Iron deficiency can delay normal infant activity, movement and mental function.
- Iron deficiency in pregnant women can increase the risk of prematurity or delivering a low birth-weight baby, which can have a negative impact on the long-term health of the baby.
Iron Deficiency Symptoms
Iron deficiency leads to symptoms like tiredness and lethargy, difficulty in concentrating and a shortened attention span – none of which is good news.
- Fatigue coupled with feeling of exhaustion, weakness, irritability or inability to focus
- Breathlessness during exercise and normal walks because without enough iron in the blood, the body becomes starved for oxygen
- Brittle or thin, frail nails with a concave or spoon-shaped depression.
- Swelling, Soreness or Inflammation of tongue (Glossitis)
- Decreased immune function which leads to frequent infection and sickness
- Difficulty in maintaining body temperature
- People who have iron-deficiency anemia may have an unusual craving for non-food items, such as ice, dirt, paint, or starch. This craving is called pica .
- Slow cognitive and social development in infants and children
Iron Rich Foods
- A trick to get more iron out of your food is to have foods high in vitamin C — i.e. orange and sweet lime juices, guava, tomatoes, capsicum, berries, papaya, cantaloupe and grapefruit in combination with bread, cereals, pasta or whole grains. Milk is a poor source of iron.
- Vegetables that are good sources of iron are potatoes with their skin, spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower greens, turnip greens, lotus stem moth, bean sprouts and tomato juice.
- Baked beans, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lima beans are also high in iron.
- Soya in its many forms, whole grains like whole grain bread or brown rice, fortified cereals and grains are other sources of non-heme iron.
- Dry fruits rich in iron include dried apricots, avocados, raisins, dates, figs and prunes. One cup of dates has as much as 5.3 mg of iron— about 20 per cent of the RDA for women. Snacking on 4 dried figs, you can get over a quarter of your daily iron fix in one go.
Foods High In Iron
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron is 11 milligrams for males age 14 to 18, but only 8 milligrams for males 19 and older. Women ages 14 to 50 need 18 milligrams each day, but their recommended dosage drops to 8 milligrams at 51 years and up. Women need 27 to 60 milligrams during pregnancy. However, pregnant women should consult their physician about prenatal supplements, which usually contain enough iron to meet the needs of mother and child.
|Food, Standard Amount||Iron (mg)||Calories|
|Clams, canned, drained, 3 oz||23.8||126|
|Fortified dry cereals (various), about 1 oz||1.8 to 21.1||54 to 127|
|Cooked oysters, cooked, 3 oz||10.2||116|
|Organ meats (liver, giblets), cooked, 3 oza||5.2 to 9.9||134 to 235|
|Fortified instant cooked cereals (various), 1 packet||4.9 to 8.1||Varies|
|Soybeans, mature, cooked, ½ cup||4.4||149|
|Pumpkin and squash seed kernels, roasted, 1 oz||4.2||148|
|White beans, canned, ½ cup||3.9||153|
|Blackstrap molasses, 1 Tbsp||3.5||47|
|Lentils, cooked, ½ cup||3.3||115|
|Spinach, cooked from fresh, ½ cup||3.2||21|
|Beef, chuck, blade roast, cooked, 3 oz||3.1||215|
|Beef, bottom round, cooked, 3 oz||2.8||182|
|Kidney beans, cooked, ½ cup||2.6||112|
|Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 3 oz||2.5||177|
|Beef, rib, cooked, 3 oz||2.4||195|
|Chickpeas, cooked, ½ cup||2.4||134|
|Duck, meat only, roasted, 3 oz||2.3||171|
|Lamb, shoulder, cooked, 3 oz||2.3||237|
|Prune juice, ¾ cup||2.3||136|
|Shrimp, canned, 3 oz||2.3||102|
|Cowpeas, cooked, ½ cup||2.2||100|
|Ground beef, 15% fat, cooked, 3 oz||2.2||212|
|Tomato puree, ½ cup||2.2||48|
|Lima beans, cooked, ½ cup||2.2||108|
|Soybeans, green, cooked, ½ cup||2.2||127|
|Navy beans, cooked, ½ cup||2.1||127|
|Refried beans, ½ cup||2.1||118|
|Beef, top sirloin, cooked, 3 oz||2.0||156|
|Tomato paste, ¼ cup||2.0||54|
Iron that is found in meat is called heme iron, and is easily absorbed by the body. Iron found in plant foods is called non-heme iron, and is less easily absorbed. Cooking vegetables, especially acidic vegetables such as tomatoes, in cast-iron pots and pans seems to help with non-heme iron absorption. Iron also seems to be more easily absorbed from cooked rather than raw vegetables.
- Taking a vitamin C supplement along with the iron helps with iron absorption.
- Diets predominantly based on cereals permit low level of iron absorption(2-5%) while diets containing high levels of meat, chicken and fish permit high level of absorption (10- 20%).
- Tea, coffee, soda and other caffeinated beverages may decrease the absorption of iron in the diet.
- People consuming excessive antacids or aspirins can also develop iron deficiency as it interferes with iron absorption.
- Iron from meat, poultry, and fish (i.e., heme iron) is absorbed two to three times more efficiently than iron from plants (i.e., non-heme iron).
Foods With Iron – Ways to include iron in diet
- Cook foods in iron vessels, cast-iron pots and pans
- Fortified Cereals: Add dates and a few raisins to the iron fortified cereals. One can have a glass of orange juice and multi-grain bread along with this, making it an ideal breakfast.
- Make a Salad: Leafy greens like spinach, cabbage and lettuce taste great when mixed in a salad with different kinds of veggies such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions and broccoli and some beans like kidney beans/chick peas. Add a dash of lemon and spice it up.
- Wrap it Up: Make a wrap with tuna, chicken or tofu (soya cheese) and add spinach, arugula and other veggies for some extra flavor.
- Add to Soup: Try mixing some leafy greens with your favorite soup.
- Stir-Fry: Add chopped leafy greens like cauliflower greens, spinach, broccoli, lotus stem and capsicum to chicken or tofu and stir-fry with olive or canola oil. One can add green chillies and other spices as per one’s taste.
- Steam it: For something new, steam some kale or spinach, turnip greens and moth beans. Mix them well and serve.
- Make a Juice: Kale, Spinach, beet greens, dandelion greens, collards, chard, bananas, watermelon etc. not only add taste but also add the power of iron to any smoothie or juice
Too Much Iron ?. Iron Overload Is Not Good For Health
Over time, high doses of supplemental iron may cause excess iron to accumulate in the blood in some people.
Iron overload is the accumulation of excess iron in body tissues. Excessive in take of iron can cause damage to your liver and pancreas. You may feel abdominal discomfort, vomiting, swollen liver, joint pains, slate-grey appearance or bronze complexion, a loss of sex drive.
Adult men and postmenopausal women are at highest risk of iron overload, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.
You should immediately consult your general physician if you’ve noticed any of these symptoms and are concerned about iron overload or iron deficiency.