Iron deficiency anaemia is a common medical condition caused by a lack of iron in the body. It is frequently referred to as simply “anaemia”. Anyone can be affected, regardless of age, gender and ethnicity, making it a worldwide health issue. A person’s entire health can be significantly impacted by anaemia, which can cause symptoms like weariness, weakness, and impaired cognitive function. If untreated, this may lead to more severe health complications.
Iron deficiency anaemia is quite common and has major consequences for public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.62 billion people worldwide suffer from anaemia, with low- and middle-income countries bearing the brunt of the disease. Anaemia not only has an impact on a person’s health but also has wider societal effects, including reduced work productivity and increased healthcare costs.
Dietary changes are essential in treating iron deficiency anaemia. Despite the fact that doctors frequently prescribe iron supplements, it is possible to get more iron naturally from our diet. Many foods contain iron, and increasing their prevalence in our diet can be a sustainable way to treat anaemia. I Bananas stand out as a promising candidate. Bananas are widely available and affordable fruits that are rich in various essential nutrients, including iron. This article aims to explore the potential of bananas as a dietary tool to treat iron deficiency anaemia by examining their nutritional value and their role in promoting iron absorption.
What is iron deficiency anaemia?
Our red blood cells contain a protein called haemoglobin, which is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to other body areas. Iron-deficiency anaemia occurs when the body does not have enough iron, which is a crucial mineral required for the creation of haemoglobin.1 This makes it difficult for the body to produce enough healthy red blood cells, which can have a variety of health implications.2
Inadequate dietary iron intake is one of the main causes of iron deficiency anaemia. This can happen as a result of dietary decisions that exclude foods high in iron, persistent blood loss (like that caused by heavy menstruation or gastrointestinal bleeding)3, or illness that interferes with the body’s ability to absorb iron. Iron deficiency anaemia is more likely to occur in infants, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions.1
Although the severity of the symptoms might vary, they frequently include weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, weariness, and cognitive difficulties. If left untreated, anaemia can eventually result in more severe health complications, such as cardiac issues, weakened immune systems, and developmental issues in children.1
Typically, blood tests are used to diagnose iron deficiency anaemia by determining the levels of serum ferritin, haemoglobin, and hematocrit.4 While mild cases may not show any symptoms, early detection and treatment are essential for preventing the progression of anaemia and its associated health risks.
Dietary adjustments are an important part of controlling and preventing anaemia. People can actively combat iron deficiency anaemia and enhance their general health by focusing on dietary adjustments and nutrient-rich foods like bananas.
The nutritional powerhouse: Bananas
Because of their high nutrient composition, bananas are frequently regarded as a nutritional powerhouse. These versatile fruits are a wonderful addition to a balanced diet because they are not only tasty but also packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre5. Moreover, bananas are very high in potassium, which is necessary for proper muscular contractions, neuron function, and blood pressure regulation.6
Iron in bananas
Bananas contain a small but notable quantity of iron despite the fact that they are not often considered to be a substantial source of this vital mineral. A medium-sized banana typically contains 0.36 milligrams of iron, which is roughly 2% of the daily allowance for adults.7 Even while this seems tiny, every little quantity of dietary iron can help increase the body’s overall iron reserves.
An essential aspect to take into account is the bioavailability of iron in bananas. Non-heme iron, which comes from plant-based sources like bananas, is not as easily absorbed by the body as heme iron from animal sources. Bananas do, however, contain some substances that might improve the absorption of non-heme iron, including vitamin C.6
In this way, bananas’ ability to combat iron-deficiency anaemia is not just based on their iron level but also on their capability to improve the body’s total iron absorption.7 When included in a nutritionally balanced diet plan along with a well-balanced diet, bananas can help maintain healthy iron levels and may help prevent or treat iron-deficiency anaemia.
How bananas combat iron-deficiency anaemia
Bananas contain a nutrient known as Vitamin C, which is strongly related to iron absorption. Non-heme iron absorption is enhanced by vitamin C, which also aids in preventing the production of insoluble iron complexes in the digestive system, which can impair iron absorption. Due to its dual functions, vitamin C is an important food for those who want to optimize their consumption of iron and deal with anaemia.6
You can take advantage of the powerful combination of nutrients that bananas offer by incorporating them into your diet. As the vitamin C in bananas facilitates iron absorption, this makes it easier for the body to utilize iron from other dietary sources. This makes bananas an advantageous addition to meals for people wanting to treat or prevent iron-deficiency anaemia, especially when consumed as part of a well-balanced diet rich in other iron sources and other crucial nutrients.
Incorporating bananas into your diet
Bananas are versatile and can be incorporated into your diet in numerous delicious ways. They are a great addition to both sweet and savoury meals due to their inherent sweetness. You can make a healthy banana smoothie to start your day by combining bananas, yoghurt, spinach, and some berries. Or, you can make banana-based snacks like banana bread, muffins, or pancakes.
Plan your meals carefully if you want to use bananas to prevent iron deficiency anaemia. To maximize iron absorption, combine bananas with meals high in iron like spinach, lentils, tofu or fortified cereals.8 An iron-rich green smoothie with bananas and vitamin C from spinach, for instance, can be a healthy morning choice. Try out various recipes and meal combinations to determine which suits your tastes and dietary requirements the best.
The recommended daily intake of bananas can vary depending on individual dietary needs and calorie goals. However, incorporating one or two medium-sized bananas in your daily diet each day can offer a beneficial supply of nutrients, including iron-absorption enhancer vitamin C. To meet your nutritional needs, it is important to maintain a well-rounded diet that includes a range of foods to balance your nutritional requirements.
- Bananas for Children and Adolescents
Iron deficiency anaemia can affect people of all ages, although children and teenagers are more susceptible.9 Due to their rapid growth and higher iron requirements, these developmental stages frequently need an increase in iron intake. Adding bananas to their diets might be a tasty approach to increase their iron intake. To ensure your children receive the benefits of both iron and vital minerals for growth, parents should include bananas in kid-friendly foods such as banana slices with peanut butter or yoghurt.
- Bananas for Pregnant Women
Another time when the need for iron rises noticeably is during pregnancy. Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can be harmful to both the mother and the growing foetus.1 Bananas can help pregnant women meet their iron needs at this crucial stage of their pregnancies by adding them to fruit salads, smoothies or as a healthy snack.
- Potential Allergies and Side Effects
Although most people generally consider bananas to be safe, it is crucial to remember that certain people may be allergic to bananas or other fruits.10 It is important for people with known allergies to use caution and seek medical help if any negative reactions develop. Additionally, due to their high fructose, sorbitol, and fibre content, eating too many bananas might cause gastrointestinal discomfort. To reap the benefits of bananas without any discomfort, moderation is essential.11
Addressing iron-deficiency anaemia requires specialized approaches for different populations, and special considerations are required to guarantee that dietary interventions like including bananas in your diet are both safe and effective. Individuals and healthcare professionals should be aware of any particular dietary requirements and potential risks.
A lack of iron in the body can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia, which is a global health issue that affects many people, leading to fatigue and weakness. Dietary interventions are essential, given that an estimated 1.62 billion people globally are impacted by iron-deficiency anaemia. Iron and vitamin C-rich bananas provide a natural remedy by improving iron absorption. It is fun to incorporate inventive items like smoothies and banana bread into meals, and pairing bananas with foods high in iron optimizes their ability to combat anaemia. Children, teenagers and pregnant women should be given special considerations because they have higher iron intake requirements, however people with allergies or those who consume large amounts should use caution. Individuals can proactively enhance their health and fight iron deficiency anaemia by understanding how bananas can address anaemia.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Anaemia - iron-deficiency anaemia [Internet]. www.nhlbi.nih.gov. 2022. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/anemia/iron-deficiency-anemia
- Pittman RN. Oxygen Transport [Internet]. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences; 2011. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK54103/#:~:text=Hemoglobin%20(Heme%20%2B%20Globin)
- Iron deficiency anemia - Symptoms and causes [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355034#
- NICE. CKS is only available in the UK [Internet]. NICE. 2021. Available from: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/anaemia-iron-deficiency/diagnosis/investigations/
- Raymond J. The Health Benefits of Bananas [Internet]. WebMD. [cited 2023 Sep 28]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/health-benefits-bananas#:~:text=Bananas%20provide%20vitamins%20and%20minerals
- Bananas: Health benefits, tips, and risks [Internet]. www.medicalnewstoday.com. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271157#benefits
- Are Bananas High in Iron? Nutrition Facts, Health Benefits [Internet]. eMedicineHealth. [cited 2023 Sep 28]. Available from: https://www.emedicinehealth.com/are_bananas_high_in_iron/article_em.htm
- Spritzler F. 12 Healthy Foods That Are High in Iron [Internet]. Healthline. 2020. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-iron-rich-foods
- Anemia in Children and Teens: Parent FAQs [Internet]. HealthyChildren.org. 2019. Available from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chronic/Pages/Anemia-and-Your-Child.aspx
- Why Do Bananas Make My Stomach Hurt? [Internet]. Verywell Health. [cited 2023 Sep 28]. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/bananas-make-stomach-hurt-5220860#:~:text=Bananas%20are%20high%20in%20fructose