Iron is a mineral that’s necessary for key life-processes in our body. It plays a main role in creation of red blood cells, which carry oxygen. If we are consuming less than the recommended dosage (8mg for adult men and 18 mg for adult women), our body would soon start protesting in different forms such as fatigue, low immunity, breathing issues and anaemia.
Getting a sufficient amount of Iron in diet is essential. We can get iron from the foods we eat as well as from dietary iron supplements. Do you wonder why some people are anaemic in spite of consuming iron rich foods/supplements?
The reason is not quite simple. Iron is available in two different forms: Heme and Nonheme. Heme iron mainly comes from animal-based foods and nonheme iron we get only from plant-based foods. Eating food high in iron does not guarantee our body will fullfill the iron quota because it absorbs the two types of iron differently.The absorption of heme iron is not significantly impacted by other foods, while nonheme iron is strongly influenced by foods that may enhance or inhibit its absorption.
Foods That Inhibit Absorption:
- Calcium Rich Foods– Calcium aids to inhibit absorption of both non-heme and heme iron. All calcium rich foods like milk, curd and other diary products should not be consumed along with Iron rich diet.
- Phosvitin present in Eggs–Eggs contain phosvitin, a protein compound that binds iron molecules together and prevents the body from absorbing iron from foods.
- Foods High in Phytates–Walnuts can reduce the amount of iron our body absorbs from iron-rich foods. Walnuts as it contain phytates. Even low levels of phytates have a strong inhibitory effect on our body’s ability to absorb iron from foods. Phytates can also be found in almonds, sesame, dried beans, lentils, peas, cereals and whole grains.
- Foods High in Oxalates–Tea contains oxalates — oxalic acid compounds that impair the absorption of non-heme iron. Oxalates can also be found in spinach, kale, beets, nuts, chocolate, wheat bran, rhubarb, strawberries and herbs such as oregano, basil and parsley.
- Polyphenol Rich Foods–Cocoa and coffee are food sources that can inhibit iron absorption in the body. These foods sources contain polyphenols or phenolic compounds, antioxidants that help remove damaging free-floating cells from the body. Phenolic acid can also be found in apples, peppermint and some herbal teas, spices, walnuts, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. It is important to note that these foods should not be consumed two hours prior to, or following, your main iron-rich meal.
Foods that enhance Iron Absorption
Vitamin C (also known ascorbic acid,) strongly enhances the absorption of nonheme iron. However, it must be consumed at the same time as the nonheme iron. When they’re digested together, vitamin C combines with nonheme iron to form a compound that’s more easily absorbed. Some of the other iron absorption enhancers are listed below:
- White wine
- Fruits, such as oranges and strawberries
- Meat, poultry, fish
- Vegetables like broccoli, potatoes and red & green pepper
Thus, we should design our diet in such a way that while we are consuming iron rich foods, we should not combine any iron absorption inhibitor. We also need to make sure we have enough vitamin C in that meal which would boost the iron absorbtion. There are cereal/muesli brands that claim to provide us high iron meal. But cereals are taken with milk, which again inhibits the absorption. Same with cases like having ”Palak Paneer”and milkshakes/smoothies containing iron rich dry-fruits!
I have a nice salad recipe which acts as a ”superfood” for Iron boost in our body. However, we should not consume tea/coffee/ milk products/Eggs at least 2 hours before/after the meal for the obvious reasons specified above. This is a very simple vegetarian recipe, described below:
|Ingredients for Ironic Salad|
- Sprouts- 1 cup
- Diced Tomatoes- 1 cup
- Lemon Juice- from 1 lemon
- Pomegranate- A handful
- Cucumber- 1 small diced
- Onion- 1 chopped
- Boiled Chickpeas- 1 cup
- Partially Boiled (Blanched) Spinach- 1 Cup
- Partially Boiled (Blanched) Broccoli- 1 small, diced
- Ginger- 1/2 inch, finely chopped
- Chilli- 1 cut in slice
- Avocado- 1/4th diced (Optional)
- Bell peppers- 1/2 cup diced
- Potato- 1 boiled, diced
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 2 Teaspoon
- Salt to taste
- Pepper/Thyme for flavour
- Groundnuts- 4-5, roasted and ground
In a pan, put a teaspoon of oil and add thyme and the chopped tomatoes and onions. Saute for a minute and add the boiled chickpeas and bell peppers. Stir fry for a minute and finally add the potatoes, ginger, chilli, tomatoes and Spinach. Put the flame off after a minute. Let it cool and transfer it to a serving bowl. Now add to it the remaining ingredients- sprouts, cucumber,avocados, pomegranate, salt, pepper, remaining oil, groundnut and lemon juice.
|Ingredients for stir fry|
This recipe can be used as a evening snack or even for dinner. Apart from Iron, it has all other necessary nutrients too for a balanced diet.
I have put this post as a part of the Iron Chef contest. It is an initiative by Livogen to spread awareness, about the importance of iron in diet. Simple lifestyle and dietary changes can help one go a long way in fighting Iron Deficiency and well-being in general.