8 MAY, 2013

Anemia: a problem mainly inflicting women

Nutrition and anemia

How many of us have ever felt tired or weak for no particular reason, or are out of breath going up the stairs? How many of you ladies notice that some of your hair is falling? It is very possible that this may be due to lack of iron or its medical term, iron deficiency anemia. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that somewhere between 600 and 700 million people suffer from iron deficiency, making it the number one nutritional deficiency worldwide, especially in developing countries.

Iron is an essential element required for the synthesis and proper function of the body’s hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is located in the red blood cells and carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissue and various organs. Lack of iron can cause a specific type of anemia known as iron deficiency anemia. Aside from medication or the intake of iron supplements as prescribed by a doctor, diet plays an incredibly important role in treating this deficiency.

Nutrition and iron intake

Diet rich in food with high levels of iron is the most effective preventive measure, as well as, therapy for iron deficiency anemia. The recommended daily amount of iron is 10mg/ day for an adult male and 15mg/day for an adult female. Below are the foods that are the best sources for iron:

Food (per 100 gr)Iron Content
Octopues9,54 mg
Cuttlefish10,84 mg
Mussels6,72 mg
Oysters4,33 mg
Shrimp3,09 mg
Beef liver4,90 mg
Beef2,01 mg
Duck2,70 mg
Spinach2,71 mg
Beans2,94 mg
Lentils3,33 mg
Chickpeas2,89 mg
Sunflower seeds *14,94 mg
Oatmeal *5,00 mg
Sesame *14,55 mg

* In these foods 100gr is not a representative amount. A portion is approximately 30gr.

It is also important to note that iron from animal products, as well as, seafood are better absorbed, at a percentage rate that ranges between 8-40%. Whereas, foods of plant origin (i.e. legumes) are absorbed as a much lower percentage rate, ranging between 0.5 – 6%. In general, iron absorption from a food is affected by a number of factors and must be carefully studied. So, there are the following food categories:

Foods that facilitate iron absorption

These are the foods high in Vitamin C, such as kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, oranges, tangarines, grapes, spinach and lemon. For this reason, when consuming food sources high in iron, squeeze a lot of lemon juice on it or serve along with a glass of freshly squeezed citrus juice.

Foods that reduce iron absorption

Reduce or do not consume along with foods that are rich in iron foods that reduce iron absorption, such as:

  • Calcium (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Black tea (reduces by 50%-64% iron absorption)
  • Coffee (one cup of filter coffee decreases iron absorption by 39%)
  • Red wine (one glass of red wine reduces iron absorption by 70%)



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