Eating well to prevent iron deficiency

Why is iron important?

  • Iron is a mineral that helps your body to make haemoglobin. If the level of iron in your body falls, your red blood cells may not contain sufficient haemoglobin and thus decrease red blood cell’s capacity to carry oxygen around your body. You may become pale and feel tired. This is called Anaemia.
  • Getting sufficient iron will help growth and brain development in foetus and young children.

Who are at risk of iron deficiency?

  • Infant and children
  • Women who are at their child-bearing years
  • Pregnant women

Which foods are good sources of iron?

Animal-source foods Plant foods
  • Meats (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Liver (beef liver, chicken liver)
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Leafy green vegetables (Choy Sum, Pok Choy, broccoli, spinach, watercress, broccoli)
  • Pulses and beans (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soy beans)
  • Nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame, almonds, cashews)
  • Dried fruit (dried fig, prunes, dried apricot, raisins)
  • Whole-grains (brown rice, wholemeal bread)
  • Breakfast cereals which have been fortified with iron

How can I get enough iron from diet?

  1. Eat a well-balanced healthy diet:

    • Eat some meat, fish, eggs and alternatives. Adult woman would need about 5-6 teals of meat a day. These are important source of iron and readily absorbed by your body. Liver is rich in iron, but avoid overeating because of its high vitamin A content.
    • Eat plenty of vegetables especially leafy green vegetable.
    • Eat plenty of fruits. Include those are rich in vitamin C to enhance iron absorption, such as strawberry, kiwifruit, cantaloupe melon, orange, tangerine and papaya.
    • Choose pulses and beans. Include them in dishes such as salad, soup and dessert.
    • Choose whole-grain varieties whenever you can include wholemeal bread, brown rice.
  2. Have vitamin C rich foods with meals to get the most iron from the food we eat:

    Iron rich plant foods Match with Vitamin C rich foods
    Low-sugar breakfast cereal + Strawberry or fresh orange juice (with no sugar added)
    Kidney beans fusilli + Tomato and broccoli
    Pasta salad with mixed beans and pumpkin seed + Diced kiwifruit, melon and papaya (try lime and lemon juice to replace salad cream or mayonnaise)
    Baked beans on wholemeal bread + Orange, tangerine, grapefruit
    Hummus + Sweet pepper slice
    Tofu/ dried tofu + Broccoli, sweet pepper or tomato
  3. Have iron rich animal-source foods with plant foods, to enhance absorption of non-haem iron:

    • Sardine wholemeal sandwich
    • Chicken wholemeal sandwich
    Set meal
    • Seafood udon in soup + green soybeans
    • beef vermicelli in soup + Choy Sum (serve in clear broth and no oil added)
    Chinese dish
    • Stir-fry beef with Chinese kale
    • Stir-fry celery, cashew and diced chicken
    • Stir-fry broccoli and clams
    • Steamed sliced pork with daylily flower and wood ear fungus
    Soup Soup of watercress and Dace fish ball

Health Tips For You…

If the level of iron in your body is very low, and you cannot change your eating habit in a short period of time, then taking iron supplements or iron tablets could be a method to treat iron-deficiency anaemia. However, iron tablets can affect our body to absorb other minerals and cause gastrointestinal discomforts. Speak to your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist for advice and information.

Research suggested that over-consume red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and processed meats shall increase the risk of developing cancer. International experts recommended people to limit intake of cooked red meat to no more than 500g a week, which is equivalent to 700-750g uncooked meat, and avoid processed (such as ham, bacon and sausage).

(Published 01/2016)