Anemia is a condition when there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the various cells and tissues in our body. The oxygen supplied through our lungs combines with the hemoglobin in the RBC's and is carried to all the organs and cells, and in return, it picks up the carbon dioxide for excretion through the lungs. Hemoglobin is made up of four globin proteins to which the 'heam' or iron is attached. In India 50% of women in the childbearing age and pregnant women are anemic, and not just that, about 23% of men have also been found to be anemic. There could be two reasons of being anemic:
Physiological: Your body doesn't make enough red blood cells, Bleeding causes you to lose red blood cells more quickly 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 heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Chest pain
- Cold hands and feet
The causative factor predicates the type of anemia presented in a person. Most common anemia seen in population-based studies is iron deficiency anemia. Iron and Vitamin deficiency anemias can be prevented with a healthy diet.
Nutritional Requirements And Anemia:
Iron is needed for haemoglobin synthesis; 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 nutrient-free food all add up to iron deficiency.
. Iron-rich food sources: Plant-based foods like green leafy vegetables: Amaranth, Bengal gram leaves, cauliflower greens and radish are the richest in Iron. Legumes and dry fruits are packed with iron too. If you are a non-vegetarian, you may add chicken, fish and poultry products. Iron from animal sources also called Heme iron, which is readily and efficiently absorbed, whereas plant-sourced Iron is called Non-heme iron, incurs losses during absorption.
Folic acid is a haemopoietin vitamin essential for multiplication and maturation of red cells in our body. Inadequate folic acid of folate deficiency can lead to anaemias. Folic acid deficiency can also arise from alcohol intake, celiac diseases.
. Folate-rich food Sources: Green leafy vegetables like amaranth, ambat chukka, mint and spinach. Pulses like Bengal gram, black gram, green gram and red gram are packed with folate too. You may include Oilseeds like Gingelly and soyabean in your diet too.
3. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a crucial vitamin for RBC production in our body. Vegetarians are particularly at risk for B12 deficiency as there are no vegetarian sources of Vitamin B12.
. Vitamin B12 food sources: Foods rich in vitamin B-12 include meat, dairy products, and fortified cereal and soy products.
4. Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is not only important to keep up your immunity but also essential for the absorption of iron. Vitamin C-deficiency may 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 abundantly available in vegetables such as bell peppers. Other good sources include green leafy vegetables agathi, cabbage, coriander leaves, drumstick leaves, capsicum and green chillies.
Diet Tips To Manage Anemia:
- Make each meal balanced by choosing one component each from grains, proteins, vegetable, milk and milk products.
- Add millet at least in one meal a day. Ragi and bajra have a good amount of Iron.
- Proteins, from both animal and plant sources, are important for the formation of hemoglobin. Include meats, egg, legumes in your daily meals.
- Milk, dahi and paneer add healthy proteins to the diet. Dahi (or yogurt) also enhances gut health-supporting better nutrient absorption.
- Have two fruits daily for your Vitamin C and iron adequacy. Include vitamin C-rich vegetables like tomatoes, green chillies, capsicum in every meal.
- Always squeeze a lemon on your legumes and meats for enhancing iron absorption. Green chutney is an easy way to consume green leafy vegetable. Saunth chutney made with dates is also rich in iron.
- Have a handful of nuts, seeds and dry fruits daily. They are also packed with fibre that will keep you sated for long.
- Iron supplements must be taken if your doctor recommends them, but remember that they are supplements for a short period of time. In the long run, you have to improve your nourishment 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 lead teams of professionals to deliver 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.