Our body needs iron to produce red blood cells with haemoglobin to ensure that oxygen is carried and supplied throughout the body. When iron levels are low, you may develop iron-deficiency (referred to as anaemia) and may feel weak, tired and pale. The common reasons behind the iron deficiency are bleeding (such as internal bleeding or heavy periods), poor nutrition (lack of adequate meat or vegetable sources of iron) or medical conditions (such as Crohn's, ulcerative colitis or celiac disease).
If you've been told by your doctor that you have low blood iron or even anaemia, you need to be aware of the strategies that increase your iron levels. Iron comes from the foods we eat, so you can increase your blood iron levels with dietary practices. You need an iron-rich diet to increase iron levels in your blood.
Up vitamin C intake
Vitamin C helps enhance the absorption of iron in the intestines; consume foods rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C sources such as oranges, apricots, papaya, strawberries and blackberries will help you increase iron levels in the blood. These should be ideally consumed after eating an iron-rich food through the course of the day. Moreover, bell peppers (a source of vitamin C) can be added to iron-rich meals that help rev absorption.
Increase animal protein in your diet
Poultry, red meat and fish are some of the excellent iron sources. Include in your diet lean red meats (such as beef and lamb), organ meats (such as liver) and dark poultry to increase haemoglobin. Fish (salmon and tuna), shrimp, oysters and egg yolks contain good amounts of iron. If you are a vegetarian, tofu may be used as a meat substitute.
Eat more green veggies and legumes
Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, turnip greens and brussel sprouts) and dried legumes (such as soybeans, lima beans, lentils and kidney beans) are high in iron. These can compensate for the lack of iron in the blood.
Nuts and whole grain intake
Nuts, such as cashews and almonds, are high in iron and other nutrients to increase the iron levels, but eat them in small amounts as they are high in fat. Whole grains, particularly fortified cereals (such as oatmeal) are good sources of iron.
Take iron supplements
If the dietary approach to boost the iron levels doesn’t work, take iron supplements. But, only under the advisement of physician. This is the last resort and should be treated as such. Make sure you make efforts to make changes through diet before you consult a dietician for iron supplements.
Be watchful of the foods that prevent iron absorption
Like there are foods that boost iron levels, there are foods that prevent iron absorption. Beware of the beverages such as coffee, tea and cola as they may bind to iron and prevent its absorption.
Keep a watch on your iron levels; monitor them every three-four months. Maintain a responsive dialogue with your physician and talk to him about the changes you've made to your diet. Report if you suspect any kind of discomfort or symptoms owing to the inclusion of iron-rich foods in your meals.
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