Do you want to become one of those superhuman type people who are always energetic, upbeat, have perfect hair and amazing stamina? Just keep your iron levels up!
Hemoglobin is that part of your blood that carries oxygen through the body. In order to keep your Hemoglobin levels in check, you should ensure adequate iron intake in your diet. Getting the right amount of iron through your diet needs some work in the beginning, but can be managed.
Before I get into foods that contain a good amount of iron there is some background information that you must have:
Vitamin C & Iron: Vitamin C increases the availability of Iron in your system. This means that in the presence of Vitamin C, you will be able to utilize/absorb a higher percentage of the iron that you consume. Vitamin C is found in abundance in:
Guava, especially Pink Guava
Karonda (Carissa Caranda)
Bell Peppers - Red, Green, Yellow
There are certain substances that hinder Iron absorption within the body. These substances are:
Phytic Acid - Found in Legumes, Wholegrains, Nuts, Wheat Bran. Consume such foods along with Vitamin C in order to counteract the effect of phytic acid in these foods.
Oxalic Acid - Found in Raw Spinach and Chocolate.
Polyphenols and Tannins - Found in Tea and Coffee. Do not consume these along with a meal. Just ensure a 1.5-2 hour gap between your meals and tea or coffee.
Calcium - Calcium and Iron compete for absorption inside the intestines. As a rule, always avoid taking iron or calcium supplements with meals.
There are two types of Iron: Heme and Non-Heme.
Heme gets absorbed more easily as compared to the latter. Now I do have a list of foods that are rich in Iron as a whole. What you do need to kind of keep in mind, is that most animal sources are Heme Iron and better absorbed. Most plant sources need to be consumed with Vitamin C and in the absence of the above mentioned hindering foods. Although, this is not a hard and fast rule, I find this to be a simpler way of remembering the underlying concept.
And now, here is a list of locally grown, Indian foods that are fantastic for improving your Iron and hence Hemoglobin levels!
Sesame Seeds or Til
Amaranth Seeds or Rajgira
Pearl Millet or Bajra
Ragi or Nachni
Rice Flakes or Poha
Eggs, especially Egg Yolk
Puffed Rice or Murmura
Whole Bengal Gram or Red Chana
Whole Black Gram or Urad
Horse Gram or Kulthi
Whole Lentil or Masoor
Red Amaranth Seeds
Fenugreek Leaves or Methi
Turmeric, powder and root
Garden Cress Seeds or Halim
This list, although extensive, is tough to incorporate in our daily life. Some of the easiest ways of incorporating iron-rich foods into your lifestyle are:
Soak half a spoon of the Garden Cress Seeds overnight. In the morning, add these seeds to 1/2 a cup of chilled cow's milk and drink.
Make a seed mix with the above-mentioned oilseeds and keep it on your work desk. A spoonful of this mix is good enough.
Take any of the mentioned green leafy vegetables and simply saute it with garlic and green chillies. You can eat this along with either of your meals.
Opt for whole pulses and legumes instead of split and polished dals
Eat 2 Dates and a few Golden Raisins post workout. This will give you a fantastic energy boost and takes care of your Iron needs.
Add curry leaves and mint to your green chutney or to your buttermilk.
You should also read my article on Iron Deficiency amongst Women. This will give you a better understanding of the subject.