If you have iron-deficiency anemia (anaemia for our British readers!) it can be challenging to meet your daily recommended iron allowances. But do not let images of being buried under mounds of spinach put you off; there are many great sources of iron-rich foods to satisfy meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
Iron and anemia
Iron helps your white blood cells produce any oxygen-carrying substance in the blood known as haemoglobin. Haemoglobin helps maintain a proper and healthy red blood cell count. Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when you are not getting enough iron. Most women need around 14 – 18 mg of iron every day; up to 27 mg if pregnant. Women have periods and lose greater amounts of iron than men do; consequently before and during menopause there is a good chance you could develop anemia.
If your anemia is due to low levels of iron, increasing your daily intake may require some slight adjustments in your diet. But if images of spinach leave you less than enthusiastic, there are many other sources of iron to suit just about every taste or lifestyle choice.
Heme iron comes from foods containing similar haemoglobin; the earlier mentioned blood component that carries oxygen. The body absorbs this type of iron quite well, but you will need to eat meat products to get heme iron. Some typical sources include chicken (especially chicken livers), beef, dark turkey meat, shrimp, tuna, oysters, and clams.
*3 ounces of cooked chicken livers: about 12 mgs per serving
*3 ounces of beef tenderloin: about 3 mgs per serving
This type of iron is taken from plants and is slightly less easily absorbed by the body. But nonheme iron is a solution for those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets, as well as people who want to limit the amount of meat servings per week. Sources of nonheme iron include a wide variety of foods: spinach, beans (kidney, lima, navy, pinto, and black), lentils, soybeans, fortified cold cereals, fortified oatmeal, molasses, and tofu.
*1 cup soybeans: about 8 mgs per serving
*1 half cup boiled spinach: about 2 mgs per serving
*Check labels on cold and hot cereals; some contain 100% of your daily needs
You can get most if not all of your daily iron requirements by including a wide variety of dark leafy veggies, grains, beans, and meats. But for those times when diet may not be enough, such as during menstruation, a supplement may be helpful. Your doctor can recommend a multi-vitamin or iron pill to help. Be careful not to take too much iron; most experts advise not to take more than 18 mg a day unless your doctor advises otherwise.
A few pointers to discuss with your doctor when considering making any changes to your diet or beginning to take a supplement:
*Vitamin C can help increase the amount of iron absorbed in the body
*Tannins like those found in tea can interfere with iron absorption
*Calcium also affects the amounts of iron absorbed
*Women on birth control pills may not lose as much iron as menstruating women who are not taking birth control pills
*Women using IUDs may lose more blood and more iron than women using other birth control methods
Including the right amounts of iron in your diet will help improve your health and prevent iron-deficiency anemia. Reach for the spinach or other alternatives to boost your energy and your well-being.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You