Iron Rich Foods

In yesterday’s post about feeling cold all the time one possible cause is anemia which is also referred to as iron poor blood. For many of use WLS folks decreases in iron can result from the surgery. Most likely you were instructed to take a multivitamin with iron or possibly an iron supplement to help. Since we are now eating less food this means that we are getting less iron through diet alone. The great thing is many of the foods we are told to eat are also foods that are rich in iron.

There are two types of iron found in food. Heme iron is found in meat, poultry and fish. This form of iron is more readily absorbed by the body (up to 30 percent is absorbed). Plant based foods only contain the second type of iron (non-heme iron) but this form is also found in meat. Only 2 to 10 percent of non-heme iron is absorbed by the body.

Low Carb Cuban Sandwich2

Iron rich foods include:

Meat: beef, chicken, seafood, lamb, pork, veal, etc. Don’t forget eggs and organ meats such as liver.

Breads and cereals: these foods are usually fortified with iron and other vitamins. If the label says enriched or fortified then iron is most likely one of the nurtients added. As WLS patients these are foods that should be eaten in limited amounts especially during the first year when the volume of food you can eat is very limited. Eat your meat and veggies first!

Vegetables: higher amounts are found in all the green, leafy veggies such as spinach, kale, chard and collard greens. Iron is present in smaller amounts in all the other veggies so don’t forget about them too.

Fruits: dates, watermelon, raisins, prunes and berries. While not usually thought of as a fruit – olives actually are high in iron. An ounce contains about 4 percent of the daily recommended amount.

Other foods: beans, lentils, tofu and seeds such as pumpkin.

Tips for increasing the absorption of iron:

Always include a food that has vitamin C with a meal that contains food rich in iron. Adding tomato products (fresh, sauce, paste), colored pepers, citrus fruit, etc will help increase absorption.

Some minerals such as calcium inhibit the absorption of iron. If you take calcium supplements it’s better to not take them at the same time as an iron supplement or with a meal containing iron rich foods.

Coffee, tea and herbs such as peppermint and chamomile also inhibits absorption.

Got a one of those black cast iron pans? Cook some acidic foods such as tomatoes in the pan and it will pull the iron from the pan.

 Tips on iron supplements:

Iron supplements can cause GI upset so it’s better to take them with food.

While this isn’t a topic you might want to think about be aware the iron supplements can also cause constipation. Make sure to get your fiber in and drink plenty of water. Some people find they need to add additional fiber or take some type of softener to help with this. Check with your doctor to see what works best.

The most common and cheapest type of iron supplement out there is ferrous sulfate (check the label for the name of the iron present in your supplement). If your having GI problems and even taking it with food doesn’t help you might be able to switch to another form of iron such as ferrous gluconate, carbonyl iron and ferrous fumarate. There is also a brand called Bifera which appears to have changed their name to Feosol .
Bifera/Feosol contains several types of iron and, when I took them for a while, caused less stomach and constipation related issues. They are a bit more expensive but might be worth a check if all the other forms bother you. Another idea for those who are having stomach upset is to try Slow Release Iron instead.

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