Bumisuka.com – Sources of Vegetable Iron and Tips for Optimal Absorption. Looking at Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) data, from 2013 to 2018 the incidence of anemia has increased from 37.1 to 48.9 percent, with the highest proportion occurring at the age of 15-24 years.
Anemia is a condition when the body experiences a decrease in the quantity of red blood cells in circulation or the amount of hemoglobin below normal limits. Lack of hemoglobin levels causes symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, lethargy, fatigue, and decreased immunity which has the potential to hinder activities and reduce productivity.
The Indonesian Ministry of Health (Kemenkes) provides a standard for someone to be said to have anemia if the hemoglobin level is less than 13 g/dl for adult men, less than 12 g/dl for adult women, while in pregnant women it is less than 11 g/dl.
Quoting a report in The Indonesian Journal of Public Health, one of the causes of anemia is a deficiency or lack of iron intake in the daily diet.
Referring to the Nutrition Adequacy Rate (RDA), iron requirements vary according to age and sex. For children about 10 milligrams (mg) per day, adult men 8-11 mg per day, adult women 15-18 mg per day, and for pregnant women there is an additional 9 mg per day.
According to the Indonesian Journal of Human Nutrition, the best sources of iron come from animal foods because they have a higher biological value than vegetable sources, because animal iron is more easily absorbed by the body. However, to meet daily iron intake, it is still recommended to combine the two because animal products relatively contain a lot of fat which needs to be limited.
So, here are some choices of plant-based sources of iron that you can consume and combine in your daily meals.
1. Nuts and processed products
Apart from being a source of vegetable protein, legumes are a good type of food for sufficient iron intake. Referring to the Indonesian Food Composition Table (TKPI) from the Indonesian Nutritionist Association (PERSAGI) in 2009, the iron content in legumes such as soybeans, green beans, red beans, peanuts, pigeon peas, tolo beans to Koro beans respectively reaching 10 mg, 7.5 mg, 3.7 mg, 5.7 mg, 4.7 mg, 4 mg, and 6.2 mg per 100 grams.
In addition, processed products such as tofu and tempeh can also be a good choice of iron sources for daily meals. Described in the 2020 Health Widya Journal, tempeh contains protein, iron, to vitamin B12. Tempeh and tofu contain iron, respectively 4 mg and 3.4 mg per 100 grams. For this reason, the more varied the consumption, the easier it will be for you to meet your iron intake needs.
2. Moringa leaves
According to a 2019 study in the Karya Husada Health Journal, Moringa leaves have various kinds of nutritional content, including iron, vitamins A, C, potassium, to calcium.
Of these various nutrients, the iron in Moringa leaves has the potential to treat anemia. Every 100 grams of Moringa leaves contain up to 6 mg of iron.
The study also stated that the hemoglobin levels in the respondents increased after being given Moringa leaf extract. This is a good indication that Moringa leaves can be a good food choice to meet iron intake.
3. Katuk leaves
Katuk leaves are widely known by the public as one of facilitating breast milk. However, besides that katuk leaves also have a good iron content.
Published in the Farmaka journal in 2018, katuk leaves have the potential to prevent anemia because they can increase hemoglobin and ferritin (iron stores in the body). Every 100 grams of katuk leaves contain 3.1 mg of iron, 185 mg of high calcium, and 1.2 grams of fiber.
Chlorophyll in katuk leaves can also potentially be used as an antioxidant. In addition, katuk leaves also do not have side effects that interfere with digestion, so they can be a vegetable choice for consumption as an effort to prevent anemia.
4. Spinach leaves
Of course, spinach leaves are firmly embedded in people’s minds as the main choice of vegetables to overcome iron deficiency. This is not without evidence seeing the nutrient content in spinach which is quite diverse.
Sourced from the Food and Nutrition Journal, spinach is rich in various vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C, A, calcium, phosphorus, and of course iron. Every 100 grams contains iron reaching 3.9 mg.
The study also described the effectiveness of spinach in increasing hemoglobin levels. From 35 respondents who previously had an average hemoglobin of 12.8 g/dl to 13.2 g/dl after eating spinach regularly. Therefore, consuming it, both as a vegetable and as a smoothie, can be a good step to sufficient iron intake.
5. Tips for maximum absorption of iron intake
In the food we consume, iron is divided into two forms, namely heme in animal foods, and non-heme in vegetable sources. It is stated in the Indonesian Nutrition Journal, unfortunately, that only 10 percent of vegetable iron, such as that in vegetable sources, can be absorbed by the body. Meanwhile, absorption of animal sources such as meat and fish was higher, namely 30 percent and 15 percent respectively.
In order to optimize iron absorption, you can avoid factors that hinder absorption and consume iron together with other sources of nutrients to increase absorption. The inhibiting factors include tannins in tea, phosphoric acid in soft drinks, and caffeine in coffee. Meanwhile, a source of nutrients that can increase iron absorption is vitamin C.
In the report of the Journal of Health Analysts, it was stated that consumption of food sources of iron along with tea as much as 200 milliliters (ml) causes iron absorption of only 2-3 percent. The tannins in tea have an unfavorable effect because they reduce the absorption of iron.
According to the Journal of Nutrition College, calcium in milk can also inhibit iron absorption. This is because calcium and iron compete in absorption in the digestive tract.
Therefore, you are not advised to consume sources of iron together with drinking tea, soft drinks, or coffee and milk. Giving a time lag if you want to consume these drinks can be the right step so as not to interfere with absorption.
Furthermore, you can compensate by consuming fruit or drinks that are sources of vitamin C at the same time or immediately after consuming sources of iron because this can increase absorption.
Those are some sources of vegetable iron that can be an option for your daily menu. Don’t forget to start applying the tips above so that the iron intake you eat is more optimally absorbed by the body to prevent anemia.