While most of us are looking for ways to increase our iron consumption, people with hemochromatosis need to stay away from it. Hemochromatosis is a genetic condition where iron accumulates in the body and can slowly poison a person. An overload of iron can damage organs, cause chronic diseases like diabetes and even lead to cancer. If you’re battling with hemochromatosis, then it can be difficult to remember which foods have iron and which don’t. Being diagnosed with hemochromatosis also might mean giving up many of your favorite foods. If you’re not sure how to stick to an iron-free diet, here are six things to remember.
1. Fruits Are Your Friend
Fruits are great when you’re suffering from hemochromatosis because all of them are very low in calories. Apples, papayas and plums contain zero iron, so feel free to eat as many of these as you want. Most citrus fruits are also low in iron, but be careful not to eat too much of them as vitamin C can increase iron absorption. To reduce the risk of this, eat fruits containing vitamin C on an empty stomach, when you aren’t planning on eating anything for sometime after it. Try to avoid canned fruit as much as you can because they contain more iron than their fresh counterparts.
2. Read Labels Of Supplements
While we’re sure no one would be stupid enough to take pure iron supplements after a hemochromatosis diagnosis, iron can still lurk within other supplements you take. If you’re taking a general multivitamin or a supplement for your hair, skin and nails, read the label carefully. More often than not, you’ll find iron listed as one of the components. Look for a supplement without iron as one of the ingredients or you might end up damaging your system in the long term.
3. Avoid Raw Seafood
Your sushi days are long behind you. Raw seafood (especially shellfish) has harmful germs in it which most people with a healthy immune system can fight off easily. However, when you develop hemochromatosis, your body’s ability to protect you from these harmful organisms becomes severely compromised. This increases your risk of contracting an infection or illness, which might get very serious.
4. Be Careful Of Your Cooking Utensils
Everyone has a trusty cast iron pan that they’ve used for years, but it might be time to retire yours. When you have hemochromatosis, it’s not only important what food you eat, but also what you cook it in. Using iron utensils to cook your food can increase the iron content of its contents. This is because the iron from the vessel can permeate into the food you’re eating. Instead of iron, use ceramic or copper vessels to cook your food in.
5. Be Wary Of Secondary Dangers
Apart from avoiding just iron, it’s important to avoid all compounds which help your body absorb iron better. Vitamin C for instance makes iron more bioavailable for our body to use. Another compound to avoid is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A and accelerates the rate at which your body absorbs iron. Foods containing beta-carotenes (like carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin) are easy to identify because they have a characteristic orange color. Sugar also helps your body absorb more iron and has absolutely no nutritional benefits to offer.
6. Eat More Of These Compounds
Hemochromatosis isn’t just about foods you can’t eat, there are plenty of foods you can eat and should. Turmeric is a powerful spice and can inhibit your body from absorbing excess iron. Start adding a dash of turmeric to your recipes to make them healthier for you. Turmeric has a very neutral taste, so you probably won’t even taste it. If you’re a coffee or tea addict, then hemochromatosis gives you more reason to drink your favorite beverage. Caffeine also slows down iron absorption, so it wouldn’t be the worst idea to drink a cup of it with your meals. Try to increase your daily calcium intake too as this nutrient prevents iron from accumulating in your body.