So you have been taking extra naps because you feel run down, weak, and appear more pale. These symptoms could easily be confused with early cold or flu-like symptoms, but you could be lacking iron in your diet. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia according to the American Society of Hematology. Iron is so important in the body because it is needed to make a component called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is needed to carry oxygen to cells throughout your body for it to function.
Who is at Risk?
Pregnant women and/or breastfeeding women: More blood needed to carry oxygen to the growing baby, making the breastmilk for the baby, and supporting reproductive organs.
Women between the ages of 19-50 years old: Heavy menstrual periods could contribute to an iron deficiency
Girls, Tweens, and “in-between” (adolescents through teenage years): Picky eaters combined with “growth spurts” puts this age group at risk for deficiency
Babies and Toddlers: Breastmilk and iron-fortified infant formula can provide the amount of iron needed during the baby’s first six months. Once the baby has been introduced to cow’s milk, they become more at risk for iron deficiency, because cow’s milk is a poor source of iron. Breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula may need to supply the amount of iron not met by solid foods.
Common Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Symptoms of iron deficiency are usually detected when the lack of iron absorbed advanced to iron deficiency anemia.
- Spoon-like fingernails
- Pale skin
How much Iron do you need?
The amount of iron your body needs depends on your diet, age, and gender. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron for a non-vegetarian, healthy, adult woman is 18 mg per day. The RDAs for vegetarians are 1.8 times higher than for people who eat meat.
Which foods contain Iron?
Animal sources of iron are better absorbed by the body than plants sources. But you still want to eat a variety of foods everyday! The best way to absorb vegetarian sources of iron is to eat Vitamin C to intensify iron absorption during the same meal.
- Lean beef and pork
- Fish, such, as salmon, tuna, haddock, halibut
- Soybeans, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, lima beans, kidney beans
- Breakfast cereals enriched with iron
- Spinach and other leafy green vegetables
- Enriched rice
- Whole grain enriched bread
Only a health care professional can determine your iron status and appropriate treatment. Consult your health care profession before taking any iron supplements.