There are certain times when women are particularly vulnerable to developing anemia and need to be keenly aware of iron nutrition. Men and children can be iron deficient as well, but women in general have more occasions for concern. Eating a well balanced diet is one way to prevent iron deficient anemia from occurring. However, it is sometimes not enough.
What Is Iron and Iron Deficiency?
Iron is a mineral and a vital instrument in carrying oxygen throughout the human body. Iron is a piece of the protein hemoglobin and when there is not enough hemoglobin in the body, anemia develops. Proper iron nutrition, particularly when the body is at risk of developing anemia, is important.
Iron deficiency anemia, simply put, is a lack of enough iron in the body. By the time iron deficiency anemia develops, women will typically show symptoms, such as extreme fatigue, that make normal, everyday functioning a challenge.
Fight Anemia with Meat
One way to fight anemia with proper iron nutrition is to eat plenty of iron-rich meat, poultry and fish. Eating these meats on a regular basis will help prevent anemia because they contain iron that is absorbed efficiently into the body. For those that are weight conscious, be sure to use lean cuts of red meat. While heme irons, or meats, are the best source of iron to prevent anemia, there are other options if you happen to be vegetarian.
Fight Anemia with Iron from Plants
Another good source of iron to fight anemia is plant based foods, or non-heme irons. For vegetarians, this is the way to go, but keep in mind the absorption rate is not as high as with heme iron sources. Some of the best plant based foods to make a regular part of your diet are:
- Cooked soybeans
- Cooked navy beans
- Cooked white beans
- Black strap molasses
- Kidney beans
- Pumpkin seeds and many others
Fight Anemia with the Right Food Combinations
The right type of iron nutrition sometimes entails eating the right combination of food to get the best iron absorption. For instance, eating a nice lean steak with a spinach salad or chili with beans and meat is going to give you more iron absorption than a plain spinach salad with carrots. However, if you eat an orange with your spinach salad the absorption rate increases. This is true of most sources containing vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances the effect of non-heme irons.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the polyphenols, phytates and calcium included in some nutrition sources that will actually decrease the iron benefits of some non-heme iron nutrition sources.
The bottom line is to be aware of your iron levels if you are a woman who is pregnant or lactating, have abnormally heavy menstrual cycles or have suffered any other type of blood loss. If you are experiencing symptoms of low iron or anemia, you can talk to a doctor or nutritionist about how to increase your iron levels. There are supplements you can take as well.