Just like other minerals and nutrients, iron is vital for the overall growth and development of the body. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), iron is an essential element with important functions such as oxygen transport, DNA synthesis and muscle metabolism. Studies suggest that consuming a diet rich in iron is of utmost importance for growing children and pregnant women as iron is crucial for the body when it is undergoing growth and transformation. Also, a deficiency of iron can cause anaemia which can result in a dip in your hemoglobin levels.
Here are a few things you can include in your diet to prevent the deficiency of iron in your body.
Choose Iron rich foods
Majorly there are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. The key difference between the two is that heme iron can be absorbed easily by the body while our body takes time to absorb food that contains non-heme iron. Thus you should include sufficient amount of food that contains heme iron in your diet to ensure proper levels of iron in your body.
Animal foods like red meat, poultry, and organ meats contain heme iron while plant sources like beans, lentils, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, tempeh, Cream of Wheat, and blackstrap molasses are rich in non-heme iron.
Certain substances reduce our absorption of iron. For those who eat a mixed diet and have good iron stores, these interactions may be less important to consider. But, for those struggling to treat or prevent iron deficiency, substances that limit iron absorption are a concern. For these people, it is wise to limit foods that hinder iron absorption during their high iron meals.
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Limit food interactions
There are certain types of food namely Oxalates, Phylates, Polyphenols and calcium that can hinder the absorption of iron in your body. Thus the people who are suffering from iron deficiency should maintain distance from these items or should take them only after consulting a doctor.
- Chocolate, tea, and dark green leafy vegetables contain oxalates and they can impair the absorption of non-heme iron.
- Tea, coffee, and cocoa contain polyphenols and hinder iron absorption. Similar to oxalates, eat or drink polyphenol-containing foods one or two hours before or after your iron rich meal.
- Soy foods, whole-wheat flours, walnuts, dried beans and lentils and sesame seeds are sources of phytates. Phytates may impair iron absorption by 50 to 60%.
- Dairy products, fortified soy products, almonds and dark green leafy vegetables are sources of calcium. Calcium hinders both heme and non-heme iron absorption.