Iron is a crucial mineral required for your body's oxygen transportation. Since we don't naturally produce iron, we must obtain it from the foods we eat. A shortage of iron can impact your body in many ways, and you may develop a condition called iron deficiency anemia. Dive deeper into this condition and understand the signs of iron deficiency. 

Iron is an essential mineral that forms part of hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen to every cell in our body. This vital mineral isn't actually produced by the body and needs to be absorbed from the food we consume. Without enough iron, you may develop a condition called ‘Iron Deficiency Anemia,’ in which your body lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells. Read on to learn more about this condition and what you can do to combat it.

Some Primary Iron Deficiency Symptoms

Anemia, whether short term or long term, can vary in severity. It serves as a potential indication of an underlying condition. Iron deficiency symptoms can vary among individuals, influenced by factors such as age and gender. However, the common signs of iron deficiency anemia are:

  • Fatigue
  • Cold hands/feet
  • Light-headedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness 

Apart from the most common symptoms, the following iron deficiency symptoms may also be exhibited:

  • Poor appetite
  • Brittle nails
  • Pale skin
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Behavioural problems

It’s important to be aware of these signs of iron deficiency early on. Anemia is usually indicated by low levels of hemoglobin and iron, the normal ranges of which are listed below:

  Hemoglobin (g/dL) Iron in blood (mcg/dL)
Men 13.2-16.6 70-175
Women 11.6 50-170
Children 9.5-24.5 50-120

Low levels of these two components in blood are usually signs of iron deficiency. In the next section, we delve into the causes of these iron deficiency symptoms.

What Are the Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Anemia and iron deficiency can be caused by a number of reasons, such as:

Bleeding: Since blood contains iron within RBCs, loss of blood means we lose some of that important iron too. This is especially concerning for women, as they experience blood loss during menstruation, increasing their risk of developing anemia.

Low levels of iron in food: As our bodies rely on our diet to get iron, when we don't consume enough of it, we can become deficient over time. Fortunately, there is a wide range of iron-rich foods that will replenish your body with the nutrition that it needs.

Inability of the body to absorb iron: Certain intestinal disorders like celiac disease or gastrointestinal surgeries, including weight loss procedures, can disrupt the body's ability to absorb iron properly, resulting in iron deficiency anemia.

How to Prevent Iron-Deficiency Anemia

The best way to prevent iron deficiency anemia is by consuming foods that are loaded with iron, as well as those that can help boost iron absorption by the body. These Include:

Iron-rich foods: These foods are loaded with iron and are a great way to fuel your body's iron requirements:

Food group Food source Amount of Vitamin C (mg) in 100g Recipe
Cereals and Millets Amaranth seeds 8.02

Bajra dal khichdi,

rajgeera porridge,

amaranth paneer paratha

Bajra 6.42
Pulses and Dals Soyabean 8.29

 soyabean curry,

dal khichdi,

chana usal dry.

Dal 7.06
Rajmah (red) 6.13
Non-vegetarian food Eggs (boiled) 1.87

Egg masala dry,

Hyderabadi chicken curry,

palak chicken curry

Chicken liver 9.92
Sheep liver 6.15
Vegetables Amaranth leaves (green) 6.37

Amaranth thoran,

methi saag,

methi paratha,

methi bhaji

Methi (Fenugreek leaves) 5.69
Dried fruits, Nuts and Seeds Dates (dark brown) 4.79

Dry fruit bar,

Halim kheer,

Garden cress ladoo,

Cashew pistachio milkshake

Garden cress 6.19
Cashew 5.95


Apart from these, the following are vitamin-C packed foods that increase the absorption of iron by the body:

Food group Food source Amount of Vitamin C (mg) in 100g Recipe
Vegetables Capsicum 123 mg Tomato capsicum salad
Fruits Oranges 42.72 Orange mosambi juice
Lemon 42.72

It is always recommended to first speak to your doctor before making any major changes to your  diet.

The age-wise recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron is listed below:

Age/Gender RDA (mg)/day
Boys (10-12 years) 16
Girls (10-12 years) 28
Teen boys (13-15) 22
Teen girls (13-15) 30
Teen boys (16-18) 26
Teen girls (16-18) 32
Adult men 19
Adult Women (19-50 years) 29
Women >51 19

It’s important to schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia before making any changes to your diet. Remember, self-diagnosis and treatment are to be avoided at all costs! In addition to recommending specific foods to incorporate into your diet, your provider may also suggest taking iron supplements at a prescribed dosage.


Iron deficiency anemia is a health issue that shouldn't be overlooked, especially by women and children. Keep a close eye on any signs of iron deficiency, it's always best to consult a doctor with any concerns. Don’t attempt to self-diagnose and treat this condition, as taking iron at the wrong dose might end up doing more damage. While having anemia and iron deficiency can be challenging, managing this condition can be simple thanks to a variety of iron-rich foods that are easily available. You can always cook these foods in delicious and creative ways to boost your meals with this essential mineral.