Note: Iron balance is a tricky thing. Although being anemic is dangerous, people with too much blood-iron are also at risk too. Consult your doctor if you believe your iron level is not quite right (for 12 signs that you may have this problem see here), or if you drastically alter the amount of iron in your diet.
Here are 10 natural remedies you can start using to improve your blood's level of iron:
1. Add lean meats to your diet
Though you may expect to hear that vegetables offer more iron goodness than meat like red meat, poultry and fish, the story is much more complicated. Meaty iron is a type known as 'heme iron', which can be absorbed quite well by humans so that we get enough iron in our diet. So, if you are a little low in your iron levels, add some meats to your daily menu, because leafy greens do not contain heme iron; the iron they contain is not very well absorbed by humans and mostly goes to waste.
2. Steam vegetables more frequently
Steaming is much better than boiling or roasting vegetables when it comes to increasing their iron's bio-availability. Make this a new healthy habit. Steamed vegetables beside a nice plate of fish or meat will be a great way to eat your meals to maximize your iron intake.
3. Get plenty of vitamin C
Whether you take supplements or eat vitamin C rich foods like red (or yellow) bell-peppers, you need a good amount of vitamin C in your diet to allow your intestines to better absorb iron from your meal. So, for example, when making your main meal of the day, steam some chopped red peppers to go with your veggies. The ascorbic properties of the peppers will make sure your intestines are ready for the irony goodness.
4. Make sure you get enough vitamin B
There are plenty of reasons to enjoy more vitamin B in your diet, and in regards to blood iron here are a couple more. B-9 and B-12 can prevent and even reverse iron deficiency. The former you can find in food such as oranges, avocados, legumes and dark leafy greens. The latter is available from already iron rich red meat, poultry and fish.
5. Beware of inhibitors
Here are some inhibitors you need to watch out for, because instead of facilitating your body’s absorption of iron, these actually prevent your digestive system from doing so, for one reason or another. Other minerals compete with iron for absorption, such as copper, zinc, magnesium and calcium. Also, phytic acid can bind itself to iron, leading it to carry the iron from the system without being digested. Phytic acid is often found in vegetables, legumes and grains.
Foods that are high in fiber also have the same unfortunate effect of causing iron to pass through the digestive system intact and wasted. Finally you should be aware that tannic acid also operates as an iron-inhibitor and this is frequently used in alcoholic drinks such as beer and wine, and soft drinks like juices and fizzy sodas.
6. Keep away from antacids
For the above reason you should also steer clear of antacids if you wish to remedy a lack of blood iron. Antacid tablets contain a large amount of magnesium and calcium, which as we have seen, act as inhibitors of iron.
7. Stay clear of cigarette smoke
Cigarettes are not recommended by anyone anymore, so you'll not be very surprised to hear that cutting down on active and passive smoking can provide a boost to your blood's iron levels. Smoking depletes your nutrient levels, and this includes effects your iron ratio too. So, there's another good reason to stop smoking, and an extra special reason for you to go out of your way to avoid smokers.
Iron is not easy for your digestive tract to absorb, and usually you can only expect a success rate of 20%. Meaning 80% of your iron intake will necessarily go to waste. So to make sure you receive as much of this 20% as you can, you will need to do your best to maintain a healthy digestive system. Some things you can do include:
- Take probiotics;
- Eat your meals regularly;
- Do plenty of exercise;
- Stay away from exceedingly greasy foods;
- Drink lots of filtered, pure water;
- Get plenty of fiber in your diet (soluble and insoluble).
9. Give blackstrap molasses a try
This natural sweetener is well worth a try if you are not already aware of its benefits. Molasses contains plenty of iron, and is high folic acid and vitamin B. These are some of the best things for helping out with anemia and red blood cell production.
10. Make use of cast-iron cookware
This is a great tip if you didn't previously realize what a difference the type of cookware you use can make to the nutrient content of a meal. The benefit of using cast-iron is very simple. The longer you cook something in such a pan, the more iron will be absorbed by the food from the pan. This can be especially useful when thinking about foods that are somewhat acidic in nature, such as dairy products, cheese, olive oil and tomatoes.