Anaemia is one of the most common conditions resulting from a poor diet. It is often caused by a lack of the mineral iron in the diet. Iron is needed to build strong blood. The most common signs of anaemia are tiredness, and difficulty in working and learning. A simple check for anaemia is to look at the colour of the palms, lips, tongue or the skin inside the eye socket. In healthy people these should be red. In people with anaemia they will be pale pink.

The need for iron increases during growth and pregnancy, so children and women are especially likely to have anaemia. Anaemia in pregnant women can lead to small or premature babies and sometimes the death of the mother. Staple foods contain little iron. Foods with a lot of iron include red meats, liver, kidneys, blood and other kinds of offal. Egg yolks, dark green leaves and pulses are also high in iron, but this iron is not easily used by the body. However, eating fruit rich in vitamin C such as oranges and papaya, at the same meal, will make it easier for the body to use the iron.

Sometimes foods such as wheat, bread or cereal are available with extra iron added.

Discussion 

  • How can we increase the iron content of our most common meals? How could egg yolks, meat, liver, dark green leaves or pulses be added? How easy would it be to encourage people to eat fruit after their meal?
  • Gently examine the skin inside the eye socket, lips and tongue for signs of anaemia. How common is it to find very pale skin?
  • Why are women more likely to be anaemic than men?
  • Children with anaemia have less energy for playing, working and learning. How will this affect them as they grow up?
  • Are iron tablets available for children or pregnant women in our area? How much do iron tablets cost?