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Iron Deficiency and Nutrition

Iron Deficiency and Nutrition

Iron deficiency is a common disease. Iron is an important mineral for various body functions, including oxygen transport and energy metabolism. Since it is not produced in the body, it must be obtained in sufficient amounts through foods. Vegetable iron, that is, non-heme iron, has lower bioavailability than heme iron found in animal foods.

Especially in certain periods and in risky groups, iron intake must be monitored. Women of childbearing age, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and people on a vegetarian or vegan diet often have difficulty meeting their iron needs with food.

Especially in babies between the ages of 0-2, excessive milk consumption and late or no introduction of iron-rich eggs, meat, molasses and legumes during the period of starting complementary foods cause iron deficiency anemia.

Which Foods Are Rich in Iron?

Protein-rich foods, especially offal, beef, mutton and chicken, respectively, are both iron-rich foods and the iron absorption they contain is high.
Apart from meat, foods such as well-cooked legumes, soybeans, eggs, dried fruits (especially raisins, dried apricots), molasses, green vegetables (especially spinach), hazelnuts, peanuts, sesame and tahini are rich in iron.


What can we pay attention to in our diet to increase iron absorption?

Since tea and coffee consumption reduces iron absorption, it should be consumed openly, 45 minutes before or after meals, rather than during meals. Preferably, lemon can be added to the tea.

Taking excessive amounts of calcium in the diet (especially consuming milk and its products), roasting and overcooking meats, consuming sausages, salami and many ready-made foods containing nitrates and nitrites reduces the bioavailability of the iron taken.

Consuming dairy foods during snacks rather than during meals helps increase iron absorption.

Consuming vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, berries, and bell peppers along with iron-rich meals can significantly increase non-heme iron absorption. Vitamin C helps convert iron into a more absorbable form in the intestines. Examples include consuming eggs with capsicum or tomatoes, and consuming meatballs with lemon salad.

Phytates, found in whole grains and legumes, may inhibit the absorption of non-heme iron. Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting these foods can reduce phytate levels and increase iron absorption.
Iron absorption may increase when meals containing legumes and grains are consumed with a salad with plenty of parsley, tomatoes and lemon, or with meat group.

Although red meat is a good source of heme iron, excessive intake may have adverse health effects. A balanced approach to including lean red meat, poultry and fish in the diet ensures adequate iron without the potential disadvantages of high red meat consumption.

Consuming iron-fortified foods, such as certain cereals and bread, may be an effective strategy to increase iron intake, especially for people with dietary restrictions or at risk of iron deficiency.

During snacks, fruits such as raisins, dried apricots, kiwi, green apples and oranges, as well as dried nuts such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, can be consumed. This way you can increase your iron intake and absorption.

In some cases, specialist doctors may recommend iron supplements to correct deficiencies. However, since excessive iron intake can have adverse effects, supplementation should be individualized and monitored. Since iron pills may cause constipation in some individuals, importance should be given to the consumption of vegetables and fruits; Water and fiber consumption should be increased.

Conclusion

Optimizing iron absorption through dietary strategies involves a combination of selecting iron-rich foods, increasing absorption enhancers such as vitamin C, and minimizing inhibitors. A balanced and varied diet, as well as careful food combinations, can contribute to maintaining optimal iron levels for overall health. People who are concerned about their iron status should consult a doctor and dietitian.

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