The most common type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia. Women of childbearing age and young children are most susceptible to iron deficiency anemia. It takes a long time for this type of anemia to occur. Infants whose mothers had poor iron status during pregnancy are likely to be anemic, as are babies not breast-fed or given infant formula that is not iron-fortified. Before menopause, women need almost twice as much iron as med do, because of the menstrual blood they lose each month.
What Is It
“Iron poor, tired blood” is a good way to describe anemia. It’s a blood condition in which the number and/or size of the red blood cells are reduced. Because red blood cells move oxygen from your lungs to the tissues, any decrease in size or amount limits how much oxygen is transported.
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Heart failure
Who’s At Risk?
- Teenage girls
- Pregnant women
- Accident victims with significant blood loss
- People on low-calorie diets
- People with gastrointestinal ulcers or other internal bleeding
It’s not that there aren’t enough iron-rich foods; there are plenty. The problem is that there are many obstacles to absorbing the iron from foods. There are two forms of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron (found in meat) is absorbed at a rate of 30 to 40 percent. Compare that to nonheme iron (from plants), only 3 to 4 percent of the available iron is absorbed. About 40 percent of the iron in meat foods are heme iron, but all the iron in plant foods is nonheme.
Choose a healthful variety of foods, especially those rich in iron such as lean red meats
Include plenty of foods rich in vitamin C when you do eat foods that contain iron. The vitamin C will help absorb more of the available iron from foods or supplements.
Use cast-iron cookware. Tiny iron particles from the cookware are transferred to food and can provide a significant source of dietary iron.
Did You Know
Eating just a little bit of meat can significantly improve the absorption of all iron in a meal. “Meat Factor” is the name of the substance believed to cause this effect. If you can’t or won’t eat meant, then the acidity from foods that contain vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can boost nonheme iron absorption.
On average, only about 10 percent of the iron you eat is absorbed. Your body is incredibly adept at hoarding iron. The less you eat, the more you absorb. That is why vegetarians do not have higher rates of anemia than meat eaters. However, this adaptation only goes so far. If you get far too little iron, you can’t catch up.