Iron Rich Foods For Dialysis Patients: According to A Dietitian

Iron Rich Foods For Dialysis Patients: According to A Dietitian

Iron and Kidneys

Feeling weak? Low energy? Feeling cold all the time? Most likely your body has low iron.

Low iron leads to anemia. In the nature of kidney disease, anemia happens before kidney fails.

Low iron level is a common problem for dialysis patients. Here are some iron rich foods and guides that may help improve your iron level.

How to increase hemoglobin in a dialysis patient? 

This is a common question I got as a renal dietitian.

There are different reasons causing low iron in dialysis patients. Some common reasons include gastrointestinal bleeding (GI bleed), dialysis treatment itself, or your body has poor iron absorption.

Some natural ways to increase your hemoglobin is through diet. Incorporating some iron rich foods (in moderation of course), can help bring your hemoglobin up.

What are iron rich foods for dialysis patients?

Iron exists in heme (animal) and non-heme (plant-based) form. 

Our body is able to absorb up to 30 percent heme iron.  The key here is portion or serving sizes. 

All food has a natural phosphorus and potassium content. Adding these foods within the serving size will help you stay on track with renal diet.

Top 10 iron rich foods I recommend for dialysis patients (supported by the USDA):

  1. Beets or Beetroot – 1 cup of cooked beets contains 1.1mg of iron. It is recommended you take canned beets when you are on a renal diet due to less phosphorus and potassium content on processed canned beets. 
  • Add them to your smoothie in the morning, or to your salad, or even as a snack when you are on the go!
  1. Lean Red Meat (Lean Sirloin or Duck Breast) – 6oz Sirloin steak or 3 ounces Duck Breast has similar iron content of 3.75g of Iron. More iron serving compared to other poultry like chicken or turkey.
  1. Artichoke (Jerusalem) – Not only does it contain iron, artichoke also contains folate that helps keep iron levels high. 1 cup cooked artichoke has 1.6mg of iron that  provides approximately 8% of the body’s daily value or iron.
  1. Whole grain or Seeded Bread such as Dave’s Killer bread – 2 slices or per serving has 1.4mg of iron, similar to artichokes.
  1. Prune Juice – 1/2 cup of prune juice has 5.1mg of iron. Be mindful if you are diabetic on prune juice consumption, it can raise your blood sugar rapidly.
  1. Spinach – Although spinach contains potassium, 1 cup of cooked spinach contains 0.8mg of iron. You can safely incorporate them in your smoothie or breakfast omelet! Don’t over DO IT since it might raise your potassium level.
  1. Kale – Not Only rich in vitamin C, kale helps iron absorption in our body. 1 cup of kale contains about 1.9mg of iron.
  1. Strawberries – According to American Red Cross 1 cup of strawberries contain 0.62mg of iron.
  1. Barley – Not only rich in fiber, barley is also rich in iron. 1 cup of cooked pearled barley contains approximately 2.1mg of iron. 

As you can see, many non-heme options are high in iron AND safe in the renal diet. 

Are Nuts High In Iron?

No secret that nuts do have high potassium and phosphorus content.

Cashews, pistachios and almonds are not renal diet friendly. But legumes on the other hand are better in iron absorption.

If you limit your serving to ½ cup COOKED, split peas and lentils, they have 8 grams of iron.

So stay within these legumes and portion sizes when you are thinking of adding them to your meals.

Iron Supplements for Dialysis Patients

Although IV therapy is the more preferred iron supplement in dialysis patients, there are some benefits to taking iron supplements by mouth.

One of the benefits of taking iron supplements orally is that you most likely do not need a prescription.

It now depends on your health condition, you must consult with your primary doctor to get which iron supplement you can take orally.

Cooking With Iron Wok and Additional Tips

  • Do your weekly meal planning. 

This is a set up for success strategy to increase your iron intake. For example: Adding spinach to your breakfast omelet and artichoke on your dinner salad on Mondays are one way to make sure you are getting that iron.

  • Cooking in Iron skillet. 

DO USE your iron skillet to seared that lean sirloin or duck breast.

Not only is it adding iron, the iron skillet will add that CHARR YUM flavor you want on your meat. 

  • Avoid dairy and caffeine when taking iron rich food.

Research shows that taking dairy products like milk AND caffeine like coffee or tea while you are eating iron rich food can reduce the iron absorption.

My recommendation is to wait at least 1 hour before or 1 hour after you eat your iron rich food or when you take your iron supplement.

Iron-rich snacks suitable for dialysis patients

Always carry snacks with you.

Those snacks can include the food list above which is high in iron like strawberries, dry cereals, beets, or prune juice are all good when you are on the road.

Inspired yourself by getting a cute snack Tupperware and PACKED them with your iron rich snacks.

It is important to eat everything in moderation. Portion sizes are key in a renal diet. These iron rich foods can easily be included in your daily meal with good planning.

Snacking and small meals are important when you are an active dialysis patient. Don’t forget to keep a snacks with you and always eat balanced meal. 

Always consult with your primary care doctor before taking any supplements. Ask your  registered dietitian nutritionist for personalized advice tailored to your unique needs and health.

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