The most common anemia seen in population studies is iron deficiency anemia.
Anemia is a condition where there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the various cells and tissues in our body. The oxygen supplied by our lungs combines with the hemoglobin in the red blood cells and is carried to all organs and cells, and in return it takes up the carbon dioxide for excretion through the lungs. Hemoglobin consists of four globin proteins to which the ‘heam’ or iron is attached. In India, 50% of women of childbearing age and pregnant women are anemic, and not only that, about 23% of men are also found to be anemic. There can be two reasons for having anemia:
Physiological: Your body does not make enough red blood cells, bleeding makes you lose red blood cells faster than they can be replaced, or your body destroys red blood cells.
Nutritional causes: Lack of protein, iron, vitamin B12, folic acid in food can lead to anemia.
Common symptoms of anemia:
– Pale or yellowish skin
– Irregular heartbeat
Shortness of breath
– Dizziness or light-headedness
– Cold hands and feet
The causal factor predicts the type of anemia presented in a person. The most common anemia seen in population studies is iron deficiency anemia. Iron and vitamin deficiency anemia can be prevented with a healthy diet.
(Also Read: Fruits For Anemia: Load Up These 6 Fruits To Boost Your Hemoglobin)
Nutritional Requirements and Anemia:
Iron is required for the synthesis of hemoglobin; Lack of iron in the human body is a major reason for iron deficiency anemia. This, combined with a shift from traditional foods to processed and food-free foods, all contribute to iron deficiency.
. Iron Rich Food Sources: Plant foods such as green leafy vegetables: amaranth, Bengal gram leaves, cauliflower vegetables, and radishes are the richest in iron. Legumes and dried fruits are also packed with iron. If you are a non-vegetarian you can add chicken, fish and poultry products. Iron from animal sources, also called heme iron, which is easily and efficiently absorbed, while vegetable iron is called non-heme iron, is lost during absorption.
Folate is a hemopoietin vitamin essential for the multiplication and maturation of red blood cells in our body. Inadequate folic acid or folic acid deficiency can lead to anemias. Folic acid deficiency can also arise from alcohol consumption, celiac disease.
. Foods rich in folic acid Sources: Leafy green vegetables such as amaranth, ambat chukka, mint and spinach. Legumes such as Bengal gram, black gram, green gram, and red gram are also packed with folic acid. You can also include oilseeds such as gingelly and soybeans in your diet.
3. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a vital vitamin for the production of red blood cells in our body. Vegetarians are particularly at risk for B12 deficiency because there are no vegetarian sources of vitamin B12.
. Vitamin B12 Food Sources: Foods rich in Vitamin B12 include meat, dairy products and fortified grains and soy products.
(Also Read: Aplastic Anemia: Everything You Need To Know About This Serious Blood Disease)
4. Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is not only important for maintaining your immunity, but also essential for the absorption of iron. Vitamin C deficiency can lead to poor iron absorption.
. Vitamin C Rich Food Sources: Indian gooseberries (amla), guava, tomatoes and citrus improve iron absorption from plant foods. Vitamin C is abundant in vegetables such as bell pepper. Other good sources include leafy green vegetables, agathi, cabbage, cilantro leaves, drumstick leaves, capsicum and green chilies.
Diet Tips To Manage Anemia:
– Balance every meal by each choosing a component from grains, proteins, vegetables, milk and dairy products.
– Add millet to at least one meal per day. Ragi and bajra have a good amount of iron.
Proteins, from both animal and vegetable sources, are important for the formation of hemoglobin. Include meat, eggs and legumes in your daily meals.
Milk, dahi and paneer add healthy proteins to the diet. Dahi (or yogurt) also improves gut health and supports better nutrient absorption.
– Take two fruits daily for your vitamin C and iron levels. Add vitamin C-rich vegetables such as tomatoes, green chilies and bell peppers to every meal.
– Always squeeze a lemon on your legumes and meat to improve iron absorption. Green chutney is an easy way to consume green leafy vegetables. Saunth chutney made with dates is also rich in iron.
Take a handful of nuts, seeds and dried fruits daily. They are also packed with fiber that will keep you satiated for a long time.
Iron supplements should be taken if your doctor recommends them, but keep in mind that they are supplements for a short period of time. In the long run, you need to improve your diet to stay healthy.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a clinical nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and led teams of professionals to provide clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties, including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.