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Iron deficiency and Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) is the most common health problem in India. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), conducted in 2005-06, presents some grave statistics regarding IDA. While 56% of adolescent girls are anemic, 30% of adolescent boys are suffering from anemia. Prevalence of anemia in children is 79% and 59% cases of pregnancy and 63% of lactating women are anemic.

As the name suggests IDA is caused due to insufficient iron. Our body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen from lungs to all parts of the body. Due to iron deficiency sufficient hemoglobin is not formed and hence blood does not carry enough oxygen to body parts. A mild case of IDA usually causes no symptoms or problems. However, a severe case can cause serious health problems.

Health consequences of IDA

  • Women: it can result in adverse pregnancy outcomes such as premature delivery and low-birth-weight babies and maternal deaths
  • Young children: can cause a heart murmur and delays in growth and development. It makes a child more susceptible to infections and can cause behavior problems.
  • General: can cause extreme fatigue, which can make performing daily tasks difficult.
  • IDA affects the heart. Due to lack of oxygen in the body, the heart has to work harder to get enough oxygen throughout the body. Over time, this stress can lead to a fast or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, an enlarged heart, and even heart failure.

Symptoms of iron deficiency

  • Fatigue
  • Craving for eating non-food items such as clay, mud, ice, plaster
  • Poor appetite
  • Brittle nails
  • Headache
  • Paleness

The most common cause of iron deficiency is low intake of iron rich food. In developing countries like India, where poverty levels are high and awareness about women's health and nutrition is comparatively low, incidence of IDA is high. The other causes of iron deficiency are low iron absorption and blood loss, which are caused due to certain medical conditions. Women are at a greater risk of iron deficiency because their bodies store less iron and because they lose blood during menstruation. It is therefore essential that adolescent girls, women of child-bearing age and pregnant women should take special care of their diet.

Pump up your iron intake

  • The recommended minimal daily iron requirement is 10-15 mg in adult males and post-menopausal women; 20 mg in growing children and young non-pregnant women while it should be at least 30 mg in pregnant women.
  • There are two types of iron, heme and non-heme. Heme iron is obtained from animal sources and is easily absorbed by the body. Non-heme iron is obtained from vegetable sources and is not as well absorbed if eaten in isolation. Absorption of non-heme iron improves if foods containing vitamin C are eaten at the same time.
  • Include green leafy vegetables, legumes and whole grains in your diet.
  • Dates, peanuts, figs and walnuts are excellent source of iron.
  • Substitute sugar with jaggery in your food. Jaggery is high in iron.

Though a huge and common problem, IDA is fairly simple to treat if it is not caused by a particular medical condition. Making sure that we eat iron rich foods is the simplest way of preventing iron deficiency.


  • Women are at a greater risk of iron deficiency.
  • Vegetarians should consciously include more iron in their diet.
  • Women of child bearing age should get their hemoglobin count tested periodically, especially if they are prone to iron deficiency. Women who are planning to conceive should get their hemoglobin count tested and take remedial steps if necessary, prior to conceiving.
  • Iron rich food should be consumed along with food rich in Vitamin C to ensure iron absorption.
  • Take iron supplements only under doctor's guidance.



Kharjura (Date) Payasa


  • 1 cup Black Dates, deseeded
  • 1 cup Fresh Coconut Milk
  • 1 cup Water
  • - cup Jaggery (Best to use organic jaggery)
  • tsp Cardamom Powder
  • Few Cashew Nuts, fried to golden in Ghee


  • Soak dates in cup of water for half an hour.
  • Once they become soft grind them to rough, coarse paste without adding any water.
  • Take cup of water in heavy bottomed pan and add this date mixture to it. To this add thin coconut milk, jaggery and keep stirring in medium heat. When it starts boiling add cardamom powder and cashew nuts and cook further for 2-3 minutes.
  • Set the baking tray and pout the mixture into it. Bake in a preheated oven at 150 degrees.
  • The cake will be ready in 45 minutes.



Vegetable Juice


  • 1/2glass water
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Black pepper
  • 1 beet, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, washed, peeled and finely choppeds
  • 3 leaves fresh spinach, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, washed and finely chopped
  • Fresh lime juice according to taste


  • Put all the ingredients in a blender.
  • Process until smooth.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Drink this healthy juice along with breakfast everyday. Spinach and beet root are high in iron. Lime juice has Vitamin C, which ensures that iron is well absorbed in the body.

Health Initiative from KS Oils