Treating Anemia with Healthy Iron-rich Foods

Your red blood cells transport oxygen from your lungs to all the tissues of your body. They additionally transport the waste product carbon dioxide from your tissues back to your lungs to be exhaled. A drop in red blood cells means the heart, muscles, brain and other tissues in the body are literally starved for oxygen.

All the symptoms of anemia mirror this tissue suffocation, including lethargy, general weakness, shortness of breath after minor physical effort, and poor concentration. Dizziness, fainting spells, apathy, irritability, or poor regulation of body temperature are other possible symptoms. The complexion might be pale and a person with anemia might be prone to colds or infections.

In advanced cases, people with anemia crave nonfood items, such as chalk, ice, or dirt. Other possible symptoms are then and flat fingernails, a smooth and waxy tongue and stomach disorders.

Getting Enough Iron

For people at high risk for iron deficiency or anemia, the first line of defense is to increase the intake of iron-rich foods. You should include three or more of the following in the daily diet: extra-lean red meat, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, organ meats, and fish. Also consider including iron fortified foods in the diet. All ready to eat cereals are fortified with iron, as are products made with enriched grains, breads, noodles, rice and pasta.

Boosting Iron Absorption

There's more to getting enough iron than just eating iron-rich foods. Iron status may balance between iron inhibitors and iron enhancers in the diet. Here are a few ways to enhance iron:

  • Consume small amounts of extra-lean meat with large amounts of iron rich grains, vegetables, and beans. The iron in meat helps increase absorption of iron in plants.
  • Always eat a vitamin C-rich food with iron rich foods (for example, orange juice with a turkey meal), since vitamin C increases iron absorption .
  • Use those iron pots. Cook acidic foods, such as spaghetti sauce, in cast-iron cookware. The iron leeches from the pot into the food and boosts the iron content of the meal several fold.

Lastly, eat those whole grains. Whole grain biscuits, muffins, bread, and crackers contain a substance called phytate that inhibits iron absorption. This is only a problem when these products are the main source of grain in the diet and it can be counteracted by including vitamin C rich foods with the meal.

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