Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency disease in the world today. Teenagers, women with copious periods and pregnant women are the biggest risk groups for iron deficiency in Sweden.
You can eat to prevent iron deficiency but it is often difficult to eat from an iron deficiency. Pregnant women have an increased need for iron, which can be difficult to meet through the diet, so it is important to consult their midwife about this and in some cases, supplements in the form of tablets are needed to meet the need. Therefore, before a pregnancy, it is positive to have a good iron supply in the body.
Different kinds of iron
There are different kinds of iron in the food we eat. One is called home-iron and the other non-home-iron. Home iron is found in meat and meat products. Non-home iron is found in vegetable products such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, cereals etc. Non-home iron is more difficult for the body to absorb than home iron, which means it is easier for the body to absorb iron from meat. The absorption of non-home iron in vegetables is affected by other substances in the diet. So in order to optimize its iron absorption it can be borne in mind that the absorption of iron from vegetables can be inhibited and stimulated by various factors.
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Below is an account of these factors:
- Vitamin C increases absorption and therefore it is good to include, for example, a good source of vitamin C for the meal. This can be, for example, a glass of orange juice or pepper.
- The meat factor in meat and fish stimulates the absorption of non-home iron
- Coffee, tea and chocolate contain substances that inhibit absorption. Therefore, at low iron values, avoid drinking coffee and tea in connection with a meal.
- Calcium can inhibit iron absorption and especially a large dairy intake in connection with meals. Then choose to consume the largest amount of milk between meals.
- Phytic acid found in the shell of cereals can inhibit iron absorption, sourdough baking reduces the level of phytic acid.
An important prerequisite for getting enough of all nutrients including iron is to eat enough and varied. When you eat a normal diet and include all types of foods in your diet, the iron requirement is usually covered. If for some reason you exclude a food group from your diet you may need to think about your iron intake.
If you eat a largely plant-based diet, it is important to include foods that stimulate iron absorption into the meal. A portion of fruit, root vegetables and vegetables for each meal stimulates the absorption of non-home iron. Take paprika rings on the sandwich, cabbage salad for lunch, grated carrots for dinner and some fruits during the day.
Meat and fish are good animal sources of iron. In vegetables, the following foods are good sources of iron:
- Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, arugula and spinach. Frozen variants of these contain as much iron as fresh.
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried fruit, especially apricots
- Wholegrain products such as coarse bread, wholegrain paste, wholegrain rice contain more iron than the refined products