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Load up on iron, ladies!

Load up on iron, ladies!

Women need more iron in their diet, especially during adolescence, pregnancy and breastfeeding. Its deficiency can lead to anemia. Read more on how to prevent it.

Written by Dr Reshma Nayak |Updated : June 12, 2017 2:35 PM IST

iron deficiency anaemia

Aashna, 33, is the typical superwoman wannabe. She is a successful techie and works for more than 10 hours a day. She makes sure she spends enough time with her daughter, is the ideal bahu and wife. She believes she is 'healthy' as she isn't suffering from any major disease. However, since the last month or two, she has been feeling extremely fatigued after she returns home from work. She has been skipping the gym because she gets short of breath even with mild exercise. She can't concentrate on anything and can't sleep well at night. Her friends suggested it might just be that her age is 'catching up' or maybe her hormonal levels were dipping. When she finally visited a doctor and was asked to get blood tests done, she realized she had iron-deficiency anaemia.

Like Aashna, most of us women do not realize how important getting the right nutrition is. We neglect our diet till the point that we need to be told by our doctors that we have anaemia and need to take iron supplements for it.

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Iron is an element that helps our red blood cells carry oxygen better. More oxygen in the blood means better nutrition of various parts of the body leading to better health. Iron also helps helps all the muscles in the body including the heart muscle function better.

Iron deficiency anaemia is usually detected by assessing the hemoglobin (Hb) levels in the body. Normal range of Hb is anywhere between 12-14 gm/dL (for women) and 14-18 mg/dL (for men). Anything below this is considered anaemia. Women are more prone to this deficiency during adolescence (initiation of menstrual periods), during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of anemia.

Read about top 15 women's health concerns

Though most women end up opting for iron supplements for anaemia, it is much better to go natural and turn to food instead. Here are some of the natural options:

1. Eat more meat (especially the red variety), fish and eggs if you are a non-vegetarian. Iron from these sources are absorbed much faster than plant sources.

2. Include more green leafy veggies like spinach (palak) and fenugreek (methi) in your diet. Though they have a good amount of iron, it isn't absorbed well due to the oxalic acid content in these veggies. Add tomatoes, potatoes to the preparations to enhance the iron absorption.

3. Add sesame seeds (til) to your food. They not only make your food more crunchy and tasty, they up your iron content. Read about health benefits of til or sesame seeds,

4. Dump sugar and use jaggery (gur) instead. It has a distinct sweet taste and can replace sugar in your tea/coffee, morning cereal and desserts.

5. Eat more legumes like chickpeas (chana), lentils (dal) and soyabean. They are one of the richest sources of iron after meat (half a cup of chana contains around 4.5 mg iron).

So, go get strong and active. Load up on some iron!

Also read: Why you need calcium

Special nutritional needs of women

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