It needs no retelling that the body needs iron to make haemoglobin, which is a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to all other organs. As such, if you have iron deficiency, it can lead to anaemia (caused due to low haemoglobin levels). According to the World Health Organization, “anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs, which vary by age, sex, altitude, smoking, and pregnancy status.”
“Besides anaemia, iron deficiency can also lead to other health issues like chronic hair loss, damaged skin and nails, pale skin,” Dr Dimple Jangda, an Ayurveda expert, wrote in an Instagram post.
Agreeing, Dr Sneha Satla, Senior Dietician, Citizens Specialty Hospital, told indianexpress.com that the symptoms of an iron deficiency depend on the severity of anaemia and the overall health of an individual. “However, some common symptoms may include pale skin, fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness and also strange cravings to eat items such ice, clay, and slate pencils,” she explained.
Additionally, the National Family Health Survey 2019-20 states that Indian women and children are overwhelmingly anaemic, especially in the Himalayan cold desert. “In a majority of states and UTs, more than half the children and women were found to be anaemic,” it noted.
As such, Dr Jangda suggested some food groups that may help prevent the condition and increase iron in the body naturally. “Here is what you need to focus on,” she added.
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Green and red foods
Focus on consuming all green-coloured foods like spinach, celery, cilantro, curry leaves, moringa, spirulina, French beans, peas, green gourd, bitter gourd, snake gourd, cucumber, cooked moong bean sprouts. Also, include red-coloured foods like carrots, beetroot, tomatoes, radish, onion, and pomegranates. Also, you can have black grapes and other vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and squash.
Yellow and orange foods
She also suggested increasing the intake of vitamin C in order to enable your body to absorb iron from these foods. Lemon, tomato, tangerines, orange, Indian gooseberry, papaya, strawberry, pineapple, mango, cantaloupe, guava, kiwi, black currant, and cherries are some good sources. Other foods like broccoli, bell peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, potato, spinach, and cabbage, also contain vitamin C.
“Yellow fruits and vegetables not only have antioxidant properties, but are equally rich in copper, iron, potassium, vitamin C, dietary fibres and other nutrients,” Dr Satla added. “Orange and other citrus fruits are not only a rich source of iron but are very much essential for the normal functioning of our body as they help in the absorption of iron,” she explained.
Good carbohydrates and fats
“Iron-rich diets can be constipating in nature, hence ensure to include good carbs and fats in your diet through coconut, coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, clarified butter or ghee, and avocados. This will help balance your diet and prevent constipation,” suggested Dr Jangda.