Iron Content In Blueberries For Anaemia

  • Hadia Zainab Doctor of Physical Therapy, DPT, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Pakistan

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Introduction

Thinking of which fruits to add to your diet to help with iron deficiency? Blueberries could be a great choice.

Aside from their delightful flavour, are you aware that blueberries can significantly contribute to your iron intake as well? By adding them to your diet, you can reduce the risk of anaemia, which involves a decrease in the body's overall blood count. Blueberries, small and round, with shades of dark blue or purple, are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.1 These components enhance your body's ability to absorb non-heme iron, commonly found in plant-based foods. Incorporating them into your diet can be a healthy choice for you to elevate your iron levels. Here's how:

Overview of iron and anaemia

Our bodies require iron as a necessary mineral. It is essential for the transport of oxygen through our bloodstream, which ensures that our cells receive the oxygen they require for healthy function. Anaemia, on the other hand, is defined as a deficiency of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood.2 Red blood cells consist of a protein called haemoglobin, which carries oxygen and contains iron.

What is the relationship, then? Anaemia can often be triggered by an iron deficiency, known as iron-deficiency anaemia. Your body can't make enough haemoglobin when it doesn't have enough iron, which reduces its capacity to carry oxygen. 

Symptoms of anaemia include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Pale or rough skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Difficulty concentrating or cognitive issues
  • Brittle nails
  • Having a strong desire for non-food items such as ice or uncooked rice
  • Chest pain (in severe cases)

Importance of dietary iron

The maintenance of the body's basic functions depends in large part on the iron we get from what we eat. The overall functions of dietary iron include:

  • Oxygenation of tissues and organs
  • Production of healthy blood cells
  • Support for the immune system
  • Maintenance of neurological functions
  • Essential for cell growth and development
  • Aids in increasing attention span and learning capacity in children
  • Contribution to muscular function
  • Support for healthy skin, hair, and nails
  • Assistance in wound healing and tissue repair
  • Involvement in DNA synthesis
  • Prevention of anaemia
  • Ensures safe pregnancy
  • Overall support for health and well-being

Nutritional content in blueberries

Blueberries rank high in nutritional density among berries. A 1-cup (148-gram) portion provides:

  • 3.6 grams of fibre
  • 16% of the Daily Value (DV) for Vitamin C
  • 24% of the DV for Vitamin K
  • 22% of the DV for Manganese

Additionally, blueberries are approximately 85% water, and a full cup contains merely 84 calories, with 21.5 grams of carbohydrates.

In addition to essential nutrients such as Vitamin A, lipids, carbohydrates, calcium, zinc, and many others, one cup of blueberries contains a total of 0.41mg of iron (Fe). 

Types of iron in blueberries

The iron found in foods comes in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is derived from haemoglobin in animal-based sources and is generally more easily absorbed by the body. Non-heme iron, on the other hand, is present in plant-based foods, including blueberries.

Absorption factors

While the absorption of non-heme iron is typically lower than that of heme iron, the vitamin C and antioxidants in blueberries can enhance its absorption. Because of this effective combination, blueberries are not just a delicious treat but also a wise choice for anyone wishing to increase their iron levels and attain a healthy lifestyle. 

Risk factors for developing iron-deficiency anaemia

Iron deficiency anaemia is more likely to occur in people who consume a diet low in iron. Defects in essential nutrients for absorption, such as folate or vitamin B12, may increase the condition.3 Heavy bleeding during menstruation puts women at risk and may require iron supplements.4 

The need for iron consumption increases due to factors like growth development, breastfeeding, and pregnancy; insufficient intake can result in anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia can occur due to blood loss from accidents or conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or chronic kidney disease,5 or blood disorders such as thalassemia.

Iron deficiency is also prominent in athletes, which can affect their overall performance, leading to fatigue and decreased endurance.

Comparisons with other iron-rich foods

Blueberries, while not as high in iron as some other foods, offer a unique set of nutritional benefits; aiding in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and having blueberries in a moderate amount is connected to a lower risk of health issues, better weight management, and protection for the brain. 

One cup of blueberries contains about 0.41mg of iron, which is relatively lower compared to iron-rich foods like red meat or beans. However, blueberries provide other essential nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamin C, which can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron. Along with the addition of other iron-rich foods in your diet, like green vegetables or beans, blueberries are a good source of plant-based iron.

Dietary iron sources

Maintaining variety in one's diet is essential for obtaining the recommended amount of iron because different foods provide different forms of iron and other nutrients that are beneficial to general health.6

Foods or drinks to avoid

Consume fewer amounts of tea, coffee, milk, dairy, and foods with high levels of phytic acid, such as whole grain cereals. These products may make it more difficult for your body to absorb iron from other foods and supplements, which will reduce the amount of iron your body receives.7

Recommended daily iron intake

  • Men aged 19 and over require 8.7mg of iron per day, while women aged 19 to 49 need 14.8mg daily.
  • Women aged 50 and over, including those still menstruating, should aim for 8.7mg daily. 
  • However, women with heavy menstruation may need supplements to maintain normal iron levels in the body. It's recommended to obtain sufficient iron from your regular diet.8

Incorporating blueberries into balanced diets

Incorporating blueberries into your diet can be a great way to boost your overall health.9 Antioxidants or Vitamin C in blueberries enhance the absorption of iron from different foods, thus aiding in maintaining the overall quantity of iron in the body. They contain fibre and proanthocyanidins, which are chemical compounds having anti-inflammatory properties and may help prevent cancer. Blueberries are believed to enhance overall cognitive performance.

Furthermore, studies show that including blueberries in your diet can help prevent heart disease.10

Thus, adding blueberries as a topping on your oats, having them raw, or even as a juice is not just a healthy treat or snack; but also a healthy addition to your diet to sustain a healthy lifestyle and well-being. 

However, baking or freezing blueberries can decrease their nutritional content. Raw blueberries are believed to be more nutritious.11

FAQs

How much iron do blueberries contain?

Blueberries contain about 0.41mg of iron per cup. While this may seem relatively low, the vitamin C and antioxidants in blueberries enhance the absorption of non-heme iron.

Can blueberries help prevent anaemia?

Blueberries contribute to overall iron intake and may aid in preventing iron deficiency anaemia. The absorption factors present in blueberries, like Vitamin C or Antioxidants, enhance the iron levels by its absorption through different foods.

How often should blueberries be consumed to gain their health benefits?

Regular consumption, a few times a week, can be beneficial. ​

Are there any side effects or considerations when consuming blueberries?

Blueberries are generally safe for most people. However, people with specific allergies or medical conditions should consult with a healthcare provider before making significant dietary changes.

Summary

Blueberries contain iron, which is beneficial for people dealing with anaemia, a condition where the blood doesn't have enough healthy red cells. Antioxidants or Vitamin C in blueberries can significantly enhance the overall absorption of iron in the body, including non-heme iron, which is difficult to absorb in the body. Including blueberries in your diet can be a tasty way to boost not just the iron levels but also prevent your body from many other health-related issues, thus enhancing the overall functions of the body in addition to making stronger and healthier blood.

References

  1. Kalt W, Forney CF, Martin A, Prior RL. Antioxidant capacity, vitamin C, phenolics, and anthocyanins after fresh storage of small fruits. J Agric Food Chem. 1999 Nov;47(11):4638–44.
  2. Merlo CM, Wuillemin WA. [Diagnosis and therapy of anaemia in general practice]. Praxis (Bern 1994). 2009 Feb 18;98(4):191–9.
  3. Mohamed M, Thio J, Thomas RS, Phillips J. Pernicious anaemia. BMJ. 2020 Apr 24;369:m1319.
  4. nhs.uk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Nov 27]. Vitamins and minerals - Iron. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/iron/
  5. Gafter-Gvili A, Schechter A, Rozen-Zvi B. Iron deficiency anaemia in chronic kidney disease. Acta Haematol. 2019;142(1):44–50.
  6. Moustarah F, Daley SF. Dietary iron. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Nov 28]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK540969/
  7. nhs.uk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Nov 28]. Iron deficiency anaemia. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/
  8. nhs.uk [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Nov 28]. Vitamins and minerals - Iron. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/iron/
  9. Silva S, Costa EM, Veiga M, Morais RM, Calhau C, Pintado M. Health-promoting properties of blueberries: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(2):181–200.
  10. Wood E, Hein S, Heiss C, Williams C, Rodriguez-Mateos A. Blueberries and cardiovascular disease prevention. Food Funct. 2019 Dec 11;10(12):7621–33.
  11. Rodriguez-Mateos A, Del Pino-García R, George TW, Vidal-Diez A, Heiss C, Spencer JPE. Impact of processing on the bioavailability and vascular effects of blueberry (Poly)phenols. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014 Oct;58(10):1952–61.

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Hadia Zainab

Doctor of Physical Therapy, DPT, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Pakistan

Hadia is a freelance medical and health writer who creates empathetic and informative content for patients and healthcare professionals. She firmly believes in the importance of kindness, empathy and clear communication to strengthen the bond between patients and providers.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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