“Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein present in red blood cells and is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. It is necessary to maintain normal levels of hemoglobin in your blood for your body to function properly i.e. 14 to 18 g/dl for adult men and 12 to 16 g/dl for adult women. When the level of hemoglobin drops, it can cause weakness, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, poor appetite and rapid heartbeat. If the level of hemoglobin decreases significantly, the condition may be diagnosed as anemia and symptoms can become severe”, says Dr. Manoj K. Ahuja, Fortis Hospital.
According to UNICEF’s report released in the 2011, close to 56% teenage Indian girls could be anaemic. The report further states that, "issues like malnutrition and anemia affect large sections of the Indian population”.
The production of hemoglobin is important for your body, and iron and B vitamins, as well as vitamin C play an important role. It is imperative to have a proper diet to maintain an optimum level of hemoglobin. For that to happen, you need to boost your intake of foods that help in the synthesis of hemoglobin. Having said that, let's learn how to increase hemoglobin.
Who Needs More Iron?
“Everyone needs iron, but people who are particularly susceptible to low hemoglobin includes menstruating women, pregnant women, growing children and patients recovering from illnesses”, adds Dr. Ahuja. "It is a crucial stage when a female starts menstruating, because the body is losing out on a lot of blood. Your body needs more iron at that point, so if you don’t take precautions early on - it can lead to anemia in the future”, says Dr. Anshul Jaibharat, Delhi-based Nutritionist.
We’ve spoken to experts and listed natural ways to restore your hemoglobin to normal levels. The length of time you’ll need to continue using these effective remedies depends on your hemoglobin level and how often your doctor checks it for improvement.
7 Natural Ways to Increase Hemoglobin
1. Eat Iron-Rich Foods
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of low hemoglobin levels, according to the National Anemia Action Council. “The top iron rich foods include green leafy vegetables like spinach, beetroot, tofu, asparagus, chicken liver, whole egg, oysters, apple, pomegranate, apricot, watermelon, prunes, pumpkin seeds, dates, almonds, raisins, amla and jaggery”, adds Dr. Anshul Jaibharat.
Remember the food you eat is the main source of nutrition for your baby and can help your baby’s growth and development. Hence, one of the best things that you can do for your baby is to eat a healthy diet during pregnancy. There are three nutrients that every pregnant woman must include in her diet on a daily basis. Here’s a break-up:
The amount of protein required by your body increases during pregnancy to help develop the baby and the placenta (the organ which connects the developing baby with the wall of the uterus). Protein also helps fight against nausea and the fatigue that pregnant women feel due to anemia. 90% of pregnant women in India suffer from protein deficiency. Check with your nutritionist about your protein intake or deficiency. If your diet is deficient in protein, ask your doctor for protein supplementation.
How much Protein do you need during pregnancy: Your individual protein requirement depends on your body weight. Generally, you need 0.5 g/day of additional protein intake in the first trimester.
Good food sources of protein: Seafood, lean meat, poultry, milk & milk products, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, unsalted nuts & seeds are known to be good sources of protein.
Iron can prevent anemia and infections; it can support your baby’s growth and brain development. Some women may find Iron-rich foods difficult to absorb. Here’s a helpful tip - add a Vitamin C-rich fruit with or just after your meal for better absorption of Iron. Avoiding tea 1 hour before and after having an iron-rich meal also helps the body to absorb this nutrient better.
How much Iron do you need: During the entire pregnancy period, an additional 760 mg of iron is needed.
Good food sources of iron: Lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, turkey and well cooked eggs. Vegetarian sources of iron include pulses, legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables and cereals.
Pregnant women need all the calcium they can get and it is important to understand why. Your baby’s bones are developed through the calcium in your blood. The baby’s heart, nerves and muscles depend on calcium for growth. If the calcium intake is not enough, even your bone health is at risk.While calcium is best obtained through food sources, a calcium supplement could help you in meeting nutrition needs during pregnancy. Sufficient vitamin D intake also helps in calcium absorption.
How much do you need: The recommended intake of calcium during pregnancy is 200 mg/day
Good food sources of calcium: Low fat dairy products like skimmed milk, low-fat cheese and yogurt. Fish with edible bones like sardines are high in calcium and so is tofu - a vegetable protein made from soybeans. Breakfast cereals, almonds, oranges, dried-fruits (e.g. apricots) and green leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium too.
Make sure you eat well, keep yourself hydrated and get adequate rest. Have a healthy & happy pregnancy.
The most common dietary problem that every vegetarian comes across is protein deficiency. It was a widely acknowledged fact that animal products are the best protein sources. However, it is no longer so, and vegetarians everywhere can now rejoice!
Here are the 13 best sources of protein for vegetarians:
Green peas: Green peas are legumes, which are a very good protein source. They contain 7.9 grams of protein per serving.
Quinoa: Grains usually contain very little protein, but quinoa is unique. It contains 8 grams of protein per serving; and contains all nine important amino acids that your body needs for repair and growth.
Nuts and nut butter: Nuts are a good source of proteins and healthy fats. However, eat them with caution, as they do contain 160 calories per serving. Butter made from nuts like peanut butter and almond butter is also a good source of protein.
Beans: Beans are available in a variety of colours and shapes, but all of them have one thing in common that is the high level of protein.
Chickpeas: Chickpeas are also from the legume family, so they also contain high amounts of protein; 7.3 grams of protein in only half of a serving.
Tofu and tempeh: Tempeh and tofu are both soy products and they have the highest amount of vegetarian proteins, about 15-20 grams per serving.
Edamame: Edamame or soybean is excellent for snacking. They contain 8.4 grams of protein in just half a cup.
Leafy greens: Vegetables usually do not contain much protein, but eating green vegetables will significantly add to your protein consumption. For example, you can eat one cup of cooked broccoli as that contains 8.1 grams of protein.
Hemp: Blend hemp seeds in smoothies or baked goods to get your daily dose of protein. Hemp contains 10 grams of protein per tablespoon.
Chia seeds: Chia seeds contain 4.7 grams of protein per two tablespoons, making them excellent sources of protein.
Seitan: This is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten and it contains 36 grams of protein per serving (about half a cup).
Non-dairy milk: Milk made from soy (best non-dairy protein source), almond, rice and hemp are good dairy substitutes.
Unsweetened cocoa powder: This will surprise you, but bitter cocoa contains nearly 1 gram of protein per serving (1 tablespoon)!
Pregnancy demands good nourishment for the health of the baby and mother. Well planned meals made with fresh ingredients provide all the nutrients required. The basic principles of a healthy diet remain the same, which means each meal should provide macro nutrients like - Proteins, Carbohydrates, and fats and micronutrients including vitamins and minerals in adequate amounts.
Some of the definite must haves for a healthy pregnancy are:
1. Proteins: Proteins are essential for the healthy growth of the foetus and to maintain the mother’s health. Proteins form the building blocks for blood, bones, organs, muscles and tissues. Inadequate protein intake can lead to severe malnourishment. Your daily diet should have an additional 0.5g of proteins in the first trimester, 6.9g in the second and 22.7g in the third trimester. So you need about 78g of proteins in the third trimester.
2. Folic acid or Folate: Folic Acid is very essential for preventing neural tube defect, serious abnormalities of the spinal cord and brain. It is also helpful in increasing birth weight, synthesis of haemoglobin and reducing the incidence of pre-mature births. The recommended allowance is 500micro g/day
3. Iron: In the form of haemoglobin, Iron is essential to carry oxygen in our blood. During pregnancy the body needs to increase the blood volume to meet the demands of the growing foetus, hence more Iron in the diet is essential. Anemia is one of the leading causes of premature birth and low birth weight. Indian women need 35mg/d of Iron during pregnancy.
Non vegetarian sources are considered better as the iron absorption is more enhanced. To improve iron absorption from vegetarian sources, adding a Vitamin C source helps. So squeezing some lemon on the food, or adding a tomato salad or just an amla improves absorption.
4. Calcium: Calcium is needed to build healthy bones and teeth of the baby and for the production of calcium rich breast milk and prevention of osteoporosis in the mother. ICMR has listed the daily Calcium requirement for pregnant women at 1200mg. An important factor in choosing the source of calcium is its bioavailability- Milk is one of the best sources of biologically available calcium.
5. Vitamin A is required for healthy vision, immune function and foetal growth and development. Mothers are susceptible to Vitamin A deficiency particularly in the third trimester because of rapid foetal development and an increase in the blood volume. Including Vitamin A containing foods like animal sources such as milk, butter, egg and fish or Beta carotene rich vegetarian sources in daily diet can help achieve the daily requirement of 800µg of Vitamin A or 6400µg of beta carotene.
With people becoming more health conscious, several restaurants have started introducing dishes with healthy ingredients like kale, beetroot and quinoa. These dishes offer wholesome goodness as it is not just good on nutrient value but also on taste, say experts.
Rajesh Sawhney, Co-founder of Healthie.in and Rajiv Kumar, CEO of Culinate, have listed some of the healthy ingredients that restaurants and cafes have started using in their dishes:
* Quinoa is a seed that belongs to the spinach/chard family, which is why it is called a pseudo-cereal or pseudo-grain. Quinoa is rich in protein and a lot of other vital nutrients such as magnesium, dietary fiber and vitamin B. It is also a good source of antioxidants called flavonoids and it's a healthy alternative to rice.
* Kale is high in fiber, low on calorie and has zero fat. It is one of the most common ingredients in the healthy dishes prepared by restaurants. Apart from being highly nutritious, kale is also high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. It can be added to pasta, green smoothies or can be simply tossed in a salad.
* Chia seeds are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, iron, and calcium. A 28 gram, or 1ounce, serving of chia seeds also contains 5.6 grams of protein. Hence, they make it on the menu of most healthy food restaurants. These seeds can be added to smoothies, oatmeal or yogurt.
* Nuts are often counted as good fats and are also rich in fiber and Omega-3. Plant sterols are a substance present in nuts that helps in lowering the cholesterol level in the body.
Nuts are a great source of L-arginine, which make the artery walls more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow. You can make a nutty trail mix and simply munch on nuts in between meals or add them to your stir-fry.
* Activated charcoal is a natural ingredient that helps in flushing out toxins from the body. It not only helps in the detoxification of the body but also helps in digestive cleansing by alleviating problems like gas and bloating.
Activated charcoal also helps in fighting the signs of ageing.
Healthy restaurants incorporate activated charcoal in their healthy drinks and also in the breads and buns used for their special sandwiches and burgers.
* Beetroots contain valuable nutrients that may help lower your blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost your stamina, and support detoxification. It is an amazing source of iron but is often ignored due to its peculiar taste. Beetroots can be added to salads, smoothies or you could even add beetroot to your chapati dough to get that much-needed iron intake.