Include iron in your diet

Nalini Ravichandran/ Mail Today  

Insufficient iron in the body can wreck your energy level. Load up on the right diet.

Feeling run down, cold and looking pale all the time? Sometimes, the solution doesn’t just lie in getting to bed early; instead it does in making some key diet changes. You might just need to go for a dash of iron in your diet.

It is crucial that you eat iron- rich foods, more so if you are a woman. If you don’t do anything about this deficiency, you could get anaemic.

But the good news is that it is easy to get iron. ” Iron deficiency is very common because most people indulge in unhealthy meals. It results in an internal crisis in the body as it is responsible for making healthy red blood cells in order to sustain our energy level,” says Dr S. P. Byotra, head, internal medicine, Sir Gangaram Hospital.

While non- vegetarians have good chances of upping their haemoglobin levels, there are quite a few options for vegetarians too. Women are especially prone to iron deficiency. According to the World Health Organisation, one out of every two pregnant woman from a developing country is anaemic. ” During pregnancy, the risks of iron deficiency double,” says Dr Byotra. Statistics show that 52 per cent of Indian women are anaemic. It is a condition that is easily preventable and treatable too, but it begins with the right diagnosis; a simple blood test is all that it takes to set your health on the right track.

Iron intake


Low iron levels can occur because of blood loss, inability to absorb iron from food due to certain conditions like Crohn’s or Coeliac disease. ” When anaemia is mild or happens over a period of time, the symptoms are not that distinct. But a sudden one can even lead to heart failure or other fatal conditions,” says Dr Kalpana Arora, a New Delhi- based internal medicine specialist.

A deficiency in vitamin B 12, called folate, can also lead to anaemia. ” There are also conditions that affect the bone marrow’s ability to produce red blood cells which include leukemia, and other blood cancers,” says Dr Arora. At other times, even autoimmune conditions can destroy red blood cells. Anaemia of chronic diseases happens when there is critical infection like hepatitis B and C, HIV, among others. But as the axiom goes, excess of good is bad as well. Beware of loading up on too much iron as well, as it is associated with health risks like heart problems, among others, doctors suggest.

Some clever food choices and combinations can actually help you stay off low haemoglobin levels. “You can combine vitamin C- rich foods as they would help absorb the iron. Go for simple tweaks like using sesame seeds and jaggery instead of sugar,” says Neelanjana Singh. A thumb rule is to go for brightly coloured foods. ” Foods which are low in iron are notably less pigmented,” points out Shilpa Thakur.

LIVER: It is not just rich in vitamin A but can help keep your haemoglobin levels to the optimum. So if you are eating liver or liver products, you must then cut down on other vitamin A sources like fish oil. ” It is one of the best sources of iron and is low in cholesterol too,” says Shilpa Thakur, chief dietician, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences. Red meat fits the bill too except that its excess consumption comes with several health risks, as recent studies have proven. So tread cautiously with the consumption. ” It can increase the absorption of iron as it contains vitamin B 12, which helps maintain haemoglobin levels in the body,” points out Thakur.

DRY FRUITS : ” Apricots, prunes and dates are excellent sources,” says Neelanjana Singh, nutrition consultant, Heinz Nutri Life Clinic.

SEAFOOD: There are many varieties of seafood like tuna, salmon, oyster and sardine which are rich sources of haemoglobin.

DAIRY PRODUCTS: While egg yolk helps increase the production of haemoglobin, dairy products like milk and cheese are rich sources as well.

LENTILS: These can help increase your iron content by several notches. Not just iron, these are good sources of various essential vitamins like B 12 and minerals.

 Vitamin C- rich foods matter not just for building immunity, but also help absorb iron from certain foods. One of the ways to up your haemoglobin level is by having fruits like guava, oranges, papaya and kiwi, which would indirectly help you.

GRAINS: Fortified cereals and grains like quinoa, wheat and oats are good sources of iron too.

FATIGUE: When you lack those healthy blood cells, you are bound to hit a low. ” The body needs iron to make haemoglobin, the substance which is important to carry oxygen in red blood cells. Lack of it can make your muscles and bones weak,” points out Dr S. P. Byotra.

LACK OF FOCUS: Inability to concentrate on any task is one of the signs of anaemia.

BREATHLESSNESS: Whether it’s about climbing stairs or doing your regular workout at the gym, getting breathless can indicate anaemia.

PALE SKIN: Don’t let that new shade of fairness mislead you. “It could well be because of reduced blood flow and decrease in red blood cells leading to paleness,” says Dr Byotra.

LOW ENDURANCE: Your endurance levels are bound to be hit with low iron levels, as that affects overall immunity.
IRON deficiency can end up increasing your chances of stroke by making the blood more sticky, a new study has revealed. The study has been done by scientists at the Imperial College London.

According to studies, every year 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke, nearly six million die and another five million are left permanently disabled. The most common type, ischaemic stroke, occurs because the blood supply to the brain is interrupted by small clots. The Imperial team found that lack of iron increases the stickiness of small blood cells – called platelets – which initiate blood clotting when they stick together.

The researchers studied a group of patients with a rare disease called hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia ( HHT) that often leads to enlarged blood vessels in the lungs, similar to varicose veins. Normally, the lungs’ blood vessels act as a filter to remove small clots before blood goes into arteries. In patients with abnormal lung vessels, blood is able to bypass the filter, so small blood clots can travel to the brain, according to the study.

The patients in the study who were short of iron were more likely to have a stroke. Since platelets in the blood stick together more if you are short of iron, this may explain why being short of iron can lead to strokes, though much more research will be needed to prove this link, according to Dr Claire Shovlin, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. The findings which have been published in the journal PLOS ONE, could help in stroke prevention.

Low levels of the ” sunshine” and vitamin D appear to increase a child’s risk of anaemia, according to a new research led by investigators at the John Hopkins Children’s Centre. The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, is believed to be the first one to explore the link between the two conditions in children.

The researchers caution that their results are not proof of cause and effect, but rather evidence of a complex interplay between low vitamin D levels and haemoglobin, the oxygen- binding protein in red blood cells. The investigators say several mechanisms could account for the link between vitamin D and anaemia, including vitamin D’s effects on red blood cell production in the bone marrow, as well as its ability to regulate immune inflammation, a known catalyst of anaemia.

To capture the interaction between the two conditions, researchers studied blood samples from more than 10,400 children, tracking levels of vitamin D and haemoglobin. Vitamin D levels were consistently lower in children with low haemoglobin levels compared with their nonanaemic counterparts, the researchers found.

Untreated, chronic anaemia and vitamin D deficiency can have wideranging health consequences, including organ damage and skeletal deformities, and lead to premature osteoporosis in later life. Long known for its role in bone development, vitamin D has recently been implicated in a wide range of disorders. Emerging evidence suggests that low vitamin D levels may play a role in the development of certain cancers too.


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