Hemochromatosis is a condition in which the body absorbs too much of the iron consumed from food. This overabsorption leads to high levels of iron in the blood that the body can’t get rid of. In this article, we will discuss the relationship between High Ferritin levels and diet.
When this iron is deposited into vital organs, such as the liver, heart, and pancreas, it can cause oxidative stress and long-term damage.
For people with hemochromatosis, there are different ways to reduce the amount of iron in the body. One of the methods of keeping iron levels low is through dietary modifications.
Let’s look at the best diet for hemochromatosis, including foods to eat, foods to avoid, supplements to take, and recipes to try.
It’s about more than just how much iron you consume
In a broad sense, the best diet for hemochromatosis involves foods low in iron. However, there are various circumstances that can affect how much iron is absorbed from the foods you eat. Here are some dietary factors that may affect the way your body absorbs iron:
Heme vs. non-heme iron: There are two types of dietary iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in meat and seafood. Nonheme is found in plants, meat, seafood, and fortified products. Heme iron is more bioavailable than nonheme iron, meaning that it’s more easily absorbed by your body.
Vitamin C. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, enhances the bioavailability of non-heme iron. In addition, meat and seafood can also enhance the absorption of nonheme iron.
Calcium. Various forms of calcium may decrease the bioavailability of both heme and nonheme iron.
Phytate and polyphenols. Phytate, or phytic acid, is a compound found in grains and legumes that decreases the absorption of iron. Other compounds in plant foods, known as polyphenols, can also decrease iron absorption.
As you can see, avoiding iron-rich foods is only one element of the best diet for hemochromatosis. There are other items, such as the other nutrients in the foods you eat that can affect your iron absorption.
Foods to eat when you have hemochromatosis
- Fruits and vegetables
With hemochromatosis, excess iron increases oxidative stress and free radical activity, which can damage your DNA.
Antioxidants play an important role in protecting your body from the damage caused by oxidative stress. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of many antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and flavonoids.
Many of the recommendations for hemochromatosis will warn you to stay away from vegetables high in iron. This may not always be necessary.
Vegetables that are high in iron, such as spinach and other leafy greens, contain only nonheme iron. Nonheme iron is less easily absorbed than heme iron, making vegetables a good choice. Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you have concerns.
- Grains and legumes
Grains and legumes contain substances that inhibit iron absorption — specifically, phytic acid.
For many people, a diet high in grains may place them at risk for mineral deficiencies, such as calcium, iron, or zinc.
However, for people with hemochromatosis, this phytic acid can help to keep the body from over-absorbing iron from foods.
Eggs are a source of nonheme iron, so are they fine to eat on a hemochromatosis diet? Actually, the answer is yes — due to a phosphoprotein in the egg yolk called phosvitin.
Research has shown that phosvitin may inhibit the absorption of iron, among other minerals. In one animal study, researchers found that rats fed with a yolk protein had lower iron absorption than rats given soy or casein protein.
- Tea and coffee
Both tea and coffee contain polyphenolic substances called tannins, also known as tannic acid. The tannins in tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption. This makes these two popular beverages a great addition to your diet if you have hemochromatosis.
- Lean protein
Protein is an important part of a healthy diet. Many dietary sources of protein do contain iron. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to cut meat out of your diet completely.
Instead, plan your meals around protein sources that are lower in iron, such as turkey, chicken, and tuna.