My daughter is anaemic. Apart from spinach, what foods should she be eating so as to get her iron intake every day?
Apart from spinach, rich sources of iron are dry fruits (almonds, walnuts); whole dals like chana, rajma, soy bean; whole grain cereals like jowar, bajra, brown rice; black sesame seeds, black raisins, honey and jaggery. Iron-rich vegetables are green onions, coriander leaves, carrots, radishes, beets and celery. The diet should also be adequate in proteins of high biological value such as milk, homemade cottage cheese and eggs.
Adequate intake of Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin C (tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C) is beneficial in preventing anemia as they help in improving iron absorption. The best solution would be squeezing fresh lemon juice on everything that you eat. This itself will increase iron absorption from the foods that you eat. Deep breathing and light exercise like walking also help in increasing the red blood cells in the body and thus treat anemia. Because of work, I have to travel a lot and fixed meals aren’t always possible.
What are the foods (packaged foods or others) that I can carry that will help me consume the amount of iron required as I am anaemic?
Packaged whole-grain and enriched breads and cereals provide ready amounts of iron, while travelling. Other iron-rich and easy to carry foods include peanuts, jaggery chikkis, nachni khakras, almonds, walnuts, soy nuts and raisins. Use food labels to help you choose iron-rich packaged foods and check the nutrition facts to learn how much iron is in a serving. You may also take an iron supplement to fulfill your iron needs after checking with your physician.
I am a non-vegetarian. What meats have high iron content?
Dietary sources of iron exist in two forms: heme iron and non heme iron (found in plant sources). Heme sources are provided by animal sources (meats) and are readily absorbed. Approximately 40 per cent of iron found in meat is heme, with the best sources being organ meats like liver, seafood, fish, lean meats and chicken.
I’ve heard that eating sea vegetables like nori, dulse and wakame are very beneficial to your health. How exactly does it help?
Sea vegetables, due to their high iodine content, have a balancing effect on the thyroid gland, which means they can help improve energy, immunity, memory, metabolism and many other health issues. They have 15-20 times the mineral content of the regular vegetables that we eat. They offer potent antioxidant protection to our body as they are rich in phytochemicals. They have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-clotting and anti-viral properties. They are also rich in sulphur which gives them a cancer-fighting edge. They help improve blood circulation, lower the cholesterol level and also improve heart health. The idea of eating sea vegetables may seem strange but they have been part of the Japanese diet for thousands of years — often referred to as seaweed (wrapped around sushi). Kelp (also a seaweed) is available in India, and the west has recently started enjoying the taste and nutritional benefits of other sea vegetables like dulse, arame, kombu, nori, agar agar and wakame, among others. The Chinese, Malaysians and Koreans also use sea vegetables in their cuisines.
Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and the founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre.