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How to Prevent Anemia With a Healthy Diet

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Author: James S. Pendergraft

Cases of anemia are becoming stronger by day. So adjusting your diet to make it iron rich, or more specifically iron adequate is essential. It would thus be appropriate to discuss the preventive measures in perspective of different age groups, gender and physical requirements.

Beginning with infants, who have little variety to choose from, breast milk and not cow's milk, is recommended since infants absorb about 50% iron from breast milk in comparison to 12% from cow's milk. After completing a year, infants should be made to drink milk from open cups.

For adult women and teenagers, the requirement is less than 18mg a day. However, during pregnancy, a large volume of blood is required to support the foetus and in turn the risk of iron deficiency automatically increases. Medically speaking, women require about 30-60mg of iron during pregnancy. Post-menopause, women need about 8-10mg of iron a day.

Female athletes and endurance athletes are a very high risk group owing to excessive use of their RBC's. Loss of iron through sweat is commonly observed in their case. Inadequate dietary iron clubbed with extensive training does more harm than good. The body has a tough time meeting these demands. Doctors suggest iron supplements in the form of ferrous sulphate or ferrous gluconate for them.

Red meat is prescribed to fulfill the demands of the body in such cases, so is poultry food like eggs, turkey and chicken and sea food such as mussels, clams and shrimps-more so because they contain heme iron which is easily absorbable. Vegans too have a variety to choose from. Cereals (iron enriched ones), pastas, bread, legumes such as peas, baked beans and leafy vegetables such as spinach and coriander leaves, canned asparagus, baked potato ,lentils and molasses are some of them. Apart from this, dried fruits, raisins and apricots can act as good substitutes as well. Though rich, vegetables and fruits are a source of non-heme iron.

Intake of iron has to be effective and to have the desired effect iron helpers have to be included in the diet. Vegetables have non-heme iron which is difficult to absorb. Compared to 15% absorption rate in non-vegetarian food items, it is only 5% in vegetarian ones. Vitamin C rich fruits (iron helpers) perfectly suit the purpose. Thus, intake of iron rich food simultaneously with a glass of lemon juice or orange juice only enhances the iron absorption. Other iron absorption enhancers are broccoli, tomato juice and sprouts and strawberries Red wine, calcium, caffeine, milk and tannin, on the other hand, are inhibitors.

In elderly people, anemia is usually prone to complications. The diet is the same for them but has to be monitored carefully. Under no condition, however, should the dietary iron be more than 50mg without medical supervision.

Anemia can be seriously detrimental to health. Breathlessness, cardiac complications, fatigue and reduced physical and mental performance are just a few of its numerous effects. It goes without saying that you will do good if you run to a nutritionist when there is still time than make a distress call to your doctor after you get the disease. As they very aptly say, "your body needs you too."

To Your Health! Dr. James S. Pendergraft opened the Orlando Women's Center in March 1996 to provide a full range of health care for women.


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