Let’s take a look at the components of your blood for a moment. Your blood contains two things: liquid called “plasma;” and cells. We can further break down plasma into three types of cells: white blood cells, which fight infections; platelets, which help your blood to clot; and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your brain, organs and tissues
Red blood cells contain hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red color. And it is hemoglobin that helps red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body and then collects carbon dioxide and returns it to your lungs, where it is expelled.
Normally red blood cells are produced in your body. But sometimes red blood cell levels drop. This is because your body is producing too few of them. When this happens, you can suffer from anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia happens when — you guessed it — you are deficient in the mineral iron. Without iron, you can’t produce enough hemoglobin for your red blood cells. Vitamin deficiency anemia occurs when you are deficient in folate and vitamin B-12. And hemolytic anemia develops when red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be replaced. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia.
So, how do you boost iron levels? Is it best to take an iron supplement, to make sure you aren’t getting too low? Well, a recent clinical trial has found that fortified rice could boost iron levels just as effectively as iron drops.
Researchers set out to improve iron status among infants and young children in Brazil, where iron deficiency is a significant problem. They conducted a double-blind, five-month randomized trial in Brazil. One group of mildly anemic six- to 24-month-old children was given rice fortified with iron, along with a placebo solution. A second group was given identical non-fortified rice and iron drops.
At the start of the study, the prevalence of iron deficiency and anemia in the total sample was at 73% and 100%, respectively. Five months later, iron and hemoglobin increased in both groups; however, the change in the first group was larger. The researchers concluded that fortified rice increased iron stores and reduced anemia in a group of anemic children. They suggested that, in populations where young children are routinely fed cooked rice daily, fortifying it with iron may improve iron status at least as well as providing free iron drops
It might be a good idea to start including iron-fortified rice and/or cereals in your diet — especially if you’re a senior. Seniors are particularly at risk for iron deficiency anemia due to diet and chronic internal bleeding caused by ulcers and tumors.
You can also make sure you get enough iron in your diet by consuming more of these foods: clams; oysters; organ meats; soybeans; pumpkin seeds; blackstrap molasses; lentils; spinach; beef; and sardines.