Are you Anaemic?
Young women and vegetarians may find that they are tired and lack energy. This could be caused by inadequate iron rich foods leading to anaemia. Teenagers often exclude red meat wrongly believe it is fattening. It is important to include foods that are good sources of iron to avoid deficiency.
What is Anaemia?
Blood transports nutrients, oxygen, hormones, enzymes, electrolytes, waste products, and other substances to and from all parts of the body. Normally the blood amounts to 5 to 6 % of the total body weight. The red blood cells make up the major part of this with a ratio of 500 red blood cells to 1 white blood cell. Anaemia is a condition where there is a deficiency in the size and or number of the red blood cells. When there is insufficient iron in the blood to form the required amount of haemoglobin to carry the oxygen to the lungs, iron deficiency anaemia occurs. This means inadequate oxygen to the body and you become tired.
There are other types of anaemia that are caused by a lack of folate or vitamin B12 but the most common is iron deficiency anaemia.
TYPES OF IRON
Haem iron is found in animal protein such as meat, fish and chicken. It is much easier to absorb than non-haem iron.
Non-haem iron is found in vegetable proteins such as legumes, nuts, cereals, fruit and vegetables, breads and cereals. Enriched cereals are good sources. Iron supplements are usually non-haem iron.
Non-haem iron is poorly absorbed but will improve when combined with foods containing vitamin C (such as citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables, capsicum, kiwi fruit and strawberries) and in the presence of foods that have haem iron. The iron from a bread roll will be better absorbed when there is meat or chicken in the roll.
What causes iron deficiency?
Poor diet or absorption or increased iron losses.
* No red meat.
* Low intake of fruit and vegetables (low Vitamin C).
* Unbalanced vegetarian diet.
* Excessive intake of bran in combination with iron from foods or supplements.
* Poor absorption in the small intestine due to age or illness eg crohns or coeliac.
Chronic blood loss.
* Natural monthly loss for women- sometimes very heavy.
* Bleeding ulcers.
* Bleeding from the bowel.
* Loss of blood through accidents or surgery.
Increased iron requirement.
* Breast feeding.
Who are at most risk of iron deficiency anaemia?
Teenage girls, who may have a high requirement but often omit red meat in an effort to lose weight.
How can I know if I am low in iron ?
You will be tired but you will need a blood test to confirm that iron deficiency si the cause of your symptoms.
Can I go to the chemist and buy some iron pills?
This could be a big mistake as you may be low in B12 or folate.
What if your iron was too high rather than too low? You would then be making the problem worst by taking an iron supplement. Excessive iron levels can also make you feel tired and can be quite dangerous.
Taking iron doesn't help if you suffered from Thalessemia a Mediterranean anaemia. The only safe plan is go to the doctor, have a blood test and allow the doctor to prescribe what is needed. This may be a simple improvement in diet. A review of diet by an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) would be wise.
RECOMMENDED DAILY INTAKE OF IRON
|Infants 0 - 6 months(breast fed)||0.5 mg|
|Infants 0 - 6 months(bottle fed)||3.0 mg|
|Children 1-11 years||6-8 mg|
|Adolescents 12-18 years||10-13 mg|
|Lactation- female||12-16 mg|
|Pregnant- female||22-26 mg|
Can I get more iron from my diet?
A well balanced varied diet should give sufficient iron. Red meat has 4 times the iron content of fish and chicken. Try to include red meat 2 to 3 times a week. Other good sources are eggs, oysters and enriched breakfast cereals. Pate is excellent if you are not pregnant.
What about getting enough iron on a vegetarian diet?
You can meet your iron requirement on a vegetarian diet providing you have adequate enriched breads and cereals (such as whole grain bread, weetbix, and cornflakes) and enough legumes and nuts (such as baked beans, chick peas, lentils, almonds and walnuts). Remember that absorption of iron is increased with Vitamin C, so eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Quantities of food providing 5 mg IRON
- 180 grams beef
- 1000 grams fish
- 500 grams chicken
- 300 grams salmon / tuna
- 50 grams liver / kidney
- 180 grams sardines
- 500 grams broccoli
- 1 cup spinach / silverbeet (cooked)
- 5 eggs
- 2 cups Cornflakes
- 1 1/2 cup baked beans
- 4 Weetbix
- 7 slices wholemeal bread
- 16 slices white bread
- 100 grams dried apricots (20 halves)
- 125 grams almonds (80 almonds)
- 10 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon milo