Questions on Iron Deficiency and Wine for Heart Health

Nutrition expert Heather Reese answers your questions about dieting, exercise and improving your general heart health.

I have iron deficiency anemia, are there certain iron sources that are better than others to help with this condition?

Iron has many roles in the body, but it's most important job is helping to make hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen through the body. If you suffer from iron deficiency anemia, your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues. This condition can leave you feeling tired and looking pale. Iron deficiency anemia is common, especially in women.

A diet rich in iron can help treat this form of anemia. The following foods are good sources of iron:

  • Meats like beef, pork, lamb, liver, and other organ meats

  • Poultry such as chicken duck, turkey and liver (particularly the dark meat)

  • Shellfish, including clams, mussels and oysters

  • Sardines and anchovies

  • Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, turnip greens and collards

  • Lima beans, green peas and dried beans like pinto beans, black-eyed peas and called baked beans

  • Yeast-leavened whole wheat breads and rolls

  • Iron-enriched white bread, pasta, rice and cereals

Liver and red meats are the best food sources of iron because they contain heme iron, which is better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron. Non-meat sources of iron, such as green leafy vegetables and grains provide non-heme iron and will also help improve your iron levels. If your condition is severe you may require iron supplementation. Your physician can help you determine the best course of treatment for you.

I know that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, but can I drink fruit and vegetable juice instead?

Juice does provide the same vitamins and minerals as a piece of fruit or vegetable. But it does not provide fiber, which helps you feel full after eating. It is also easier to over consumer juice. It is important to consider that one serving of juice is four ounces, while a typical glass of juice is eight ounces and provides twice the number of calories as a piece of fruit or a serving of vegetables. While it is ok to substitute with juice on occasion, it is better to eat the actual food when you can.

I know that drinking wine can aid in heart health, but does it matter if it's white wine or red wine?

Both red and white wines will help increase your HDL, or healthy cholesterol levels which can improve heart health. However, red wine provides more antioxidants to help keep your LDL, or lousy cholesterol levels, low. It will also help prevent blood clots, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. While research shows that moderate consumption of red or white wine helps promote heart health, it is important to remember that over consumption of alcoholic beverages is harmful to your health and can increase your risk of other chronic diseases.