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Here Is What To Eat If You Have Anemia

Dr. Muhammad Sher Ali

2 min read

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People with anemia often experience chronic fatigue, dizziness, and insomnia as a result of reduced blood cell production and destruction of red blood cells. While the symptoms may not be as serious, the long-term repercussions are; namely heart failure, organ damage, and even sudden death.

Nutritionists assure that anemia is easily treatable, however. Simply including extra dietary iron, B12, and folate can help keep the condition under control.

Required Amounts:

Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common, which is why iron is required in larger amounts than B12 and folate. Depending on age and sex, recommended daily allowances for iron are:

  • 0-6 months: 0.27mg
  • Males (19-50 years): 8mg
  • Females (19-50 years): 18mg
  • Pregnant Women: 27mg
  • People with anemia: 150-200mg

1-Meat, Chicken, and Liver:

Dietary iron is present in two forms: Heme iron (found in meat, poultry, and seafood) and Non-heme Iron (found in plant and fortified foods). Both can be absorbed by the body, but heme-iron is more effectively utilized.

All forms of red and white meat are rich in heme iron. A single portion of meat or chicken provides nearly 22% of your daily recommended iron intake.

Liver, and other organ meats like the kidneys, heart, and tongue are also rich, albeit less popular, sources of iron and folate. However, they are high in cholesterol and should therefore be avoided by people with cardiovascular conditions.


While shellfish like shrimp, clams, and oysters are the best marine source of heme iron, fresh tuna, sardines, salmon, and halibut are also excellent iron sources. However, canned salmon is high in calcium, which binds with iron to reduce its absorption when consumed simultaneously, and should therefore be avoided.

3-Leafy Greens:

For vegetarians, dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard are excellent sources of non-heme iron. However, certain leafy greens, namely spinach, kale, and collard greens, are also high in oxalates, which prevent non-heme iron absorption.

4-Beans, Nuts, and Seeds:

Aside from calcium-rich almonds, all other beans and nuts (cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds) are excellent sources of iron for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Similarly, beans are also rich in iron, with the added benefit of high folate content. Some of the most anemia-friendly beans include chickpeas, peas, kidney beans, and black beans.

5-Blackstrap Molasses:

This oft ignored food not only contains rich iron stores, but is also high in vitamin B6, selenium, and magnesium; all of which are necessary for red blood cell production. However, blackstrap molasses is also high in calcium, and should therefore be consumed in controlled amounts.

6-Fortified Foods:

Iron-fortified foods are an excellent alternative for those who are unable to consume some or all of the foods on this list due to an allergy or medical condition. Examples include fortified orange juice, cereals, pasta, refined flour, cornmeal, and white rice.

Good to Know:

  • Try cooking iron-rich foods in a cast iron skillet for short time periods to increase iron absorption from the skillet.
  • Avoid eating iron-rich foods with iron-inhibiting items, like foods high in oxalates and calcium.
  • Take calcium-containing non-heme foods like spinach and kale with foods rich in vitamin C (bell peppers, citrus fruits, etc.) and beta-carotene to counter calcium’s iron-blocking action.
  • Always eat a mix of heme and non-heme foods.
  • Increase red blood cell production by adding B-12 and folate-rich foods.

For optimum anemia management, make sure to include a wide variety of iron, folate, and B12-rich foods to your diet. Also, avoid taking iron supplements without a prescription and proper instructions, as overdosing on iron supplements can lead to often fatal ‘iron toxicity’.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Muhammad Sher Ali
Dr. Muhammad Sher Ali - Author Dr. Muhammad Sher Ali is a Internal Medicine Specialist with 6 years of experience currently practicing at Premium Diagnostics Centre (Islamabad), Islamabad. You can book an in-person appointment or an online video consultation with Dr. Muhammad Sher Ali through oladoc.com or by calling at 0518151800.

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