Even though everyone is at risk for iron-deficiency anemia, the following groups are at greatest risk:
Women during their childbearing years
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
One of my clients experienced this, "I was diagnosed with anemia after my first child. I was pale and had no energy. I would fall asleep while breastfeeding, which is really how tired it made me. My whole body felt like it would just collapse because my muscles felt so weak. I started eating more lean beef, red meat and snacking on turkey and kale."
What are the most common symptoms of iron deficiency?
Decreased brain function - dizziness and difficulty concentrating
Pale skin and fingernails
Note: These symptoms could also be common for other health issues. It is essential to confirm iron deficiency anemia through diagnosis by a blood test through your healthcare provider.
Two quick and easy tips to increase your iron intake
1. Focus on eating both animal and plant iron sources.
Some of the best animal sources of iron are:
Turkey - dark meat
Chicken - dark meat
Mollusks: clams, cuttlefish, octopus, oysters, and mussels
Some of the best plant sources of iron are:
Beans - pinto, lentils, soybeans and kidney beans
Dark green leafy vegetables - spinach, kale and Swiss chard
Fortified and enriched breakfast cereals
Whole grains and enriched grains - breads, rice, quinoa and couscous
2. Eat iron-rich foods and vitamin C-rich foods together.
Your body absorbs the iron from animal sources 2 to 3 times better than from plant sources. However, you can increase the iron absorption from plant sources in two ways. If you eat meat, fish or poultry in the same meal as plant sources of iron, the percentage of iron absorbed from the plant source increases. Also, if you eat or drink a food rich in vitamin C at the same meal, you can also increase the iron absorption from the plant source.
Choose breakfast cereals that are fortified or enriched with iron. Drink a glass of orange juice with your cereal at breakfast or add some berries. The OJ and berries help increase the percentage of iron that is absorbed from the grains in the breakfast cereal. Note: Many granolas are not high in iron, please read the label.
For a morning snack, try a piece of beef or turkey jerky and dried apricots or figs.
For lunch, eat spaghetti with tomato sauce and lean beef. The vitamin C in the tomatoes and beef help increase the percentage of iron that is absorbed from the spaghetti. Choose a spinach salad with dried cranberries instead of a lettuce salad to boost your iron intake.
For a snack, add dried fruit and nuts to your favorite muffin or cookie recipe. The vitamin C in the dried fruit will help increase the iron absorption from the flour.
For supper, add cooked beans or lentils to stews, soups or casseroles. The amount of iron absorbed from the beans will increase with the addition of a tomato base and meat. Oven-roasted kale is a delicious iron-rich side dish.
These tips can both help prevent and treat iron-deficiency anemia.
Originally published on May 10, 2016,
Updated: Updated: Feb 5, 2020