Chennai nutritionist gives tips to fight iron deficiency in women

By Bhavani Prabhakar Published on Sep 11, 2018 01:59 PM IST

Chennai: While there are enough studies carried out to show that the cases of anaemia are on the rise among women, experts in the city say that the condition can be effectively tackled if iron-rich content is taken during the first two trimesters in pregnant women.


Oxygen supply is necessary to stay healthy and active. When it does not happen, people often feel tired.

“Lack of iron content in expecting mothers has become common in the city and the numbers are also on the rise. Little are they aware of the problems that the deficiency can cause to the child. As the blood circulation is insufficient, it directly effects the nutrition that will be supplied to the foetus,” states S Hemavathi, nutritionist and dietitian, Motherhood Hospital.

The nutritionist says that being anaemic can lead to morning sickness, fatigue, tiredness, pale or yellowish skin and irregular heartbeat.


Blood is an essential factor required for all the organs and tissues in our body to function. Red blood cells (RBCs) are the ones that transport oxygen all over the body from the lungs. The process is facilitated by haemoglobin (Hb) which is made of iron and aids RBCs to carry oxygen. When a human does not have enough iron content, a dip in Hb is seen as a result of which enough oxygen will not be supplied. The common iron-deficient condition is known as anaemia.

S Hemavathi, nutritionist and dietitian, Motherhood Hospital.


The nutritionist-cum-dietitian attributes women becoming prone to complex health conditions due to changes in lifestyle and eating habits. This can be managed well by including more greens, veggies and fruits.

As women consume food items containing sodium, that is processed, ready-to-eat food, the need for essentials like iron and fibre are not met.

“In addition, people who consume just vegetarian food often do not get complete iron and proteins and are prone to be anaemic. They would need additional supplements for converting the iron. The non-vegetarian source of food will have enough nutrients and will be already in a converted form,” adds she.

People often take iron-rich foods along with milk. The nutritionist says it is a wrong practice and adds,”The calcium content available in the milk will inhibit the iron absorption and it has to be consumed separately to get the right amount of nutrients.”


Tablets containing ferrous ascorbate, ferrous sulphate and ferrous fumarate are commonly prescribed by doctors. However, it is advised that supplements should not be consumed along with drinks containing caffeine and high fibre and calcium-rich foods.


“Around six out of 10 pregnant women are anaemic in our city,” adds Hemavathi.

Anaemia statistics in Chennai as of 2016:

44.5% children aged 6-59 months

54.7% non-pregnant women aged 15-49

26.2% pregnant women aged 15-49

53.9% all women aged 15-49

Source: National Family Health Survey, India


Vegetarian source: Green leafy vegetables, drumstick, red rice flakes, millets.

Non-vegetarian source: Organ meat, fish and egg yolk.

To boost iron absorption: Foods containing Vitamin C can be included in the diet which is more important for vegetarians.

Vitamin C source: Lemon, orange, tomato, gooseberry, guava, broccoli, peas, beans and sprouts of horse gram

“The regular south Indian diet is deficient of nutrients and to get a balanced nutritional content, the five food rules must be followed - cereals and grains, milk and milk products, fruits and vegetables, meat and oil,” explains Hemavathi.


Motherhood Hospitals in Chennai will be conducting workshops and other awareness programmes throughout this month in educational institutions and corporate companies about iron and other nutritional deficiencies in women.


We begin a weekly series, Health Mix, on nutritional deficiency, by our correspondent Bhavani Prabhakar, which will be featured every Tuesday.