Foods To Treat Anemia

Anemia occurs when the body doesn’t have enough amount of healthy red blood cells. This condition is primarily caused because of blood loss, the destruction of RBC, or the body’s inability to create enough red blood cells. There are many types of anemia. In those, the common type is iron-deficiency anemia. RBC contains a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is rich in iron. With a deficiency of iron, the body can’t make hemoglobin. Our body needs to create enough red blood cells to deliver oxygen-rich blood throughout our body. Lack of vitamin B12 and folate also impact your body’s ability to make red blood cells. If the body can’t process the B12 vitamin properly, pernicious anemia may develop. A diet plan rich in iron, C vitamins, and B vitamins is important for anemia. Take to your healthcare provider for supplements as well. This article will run you through the best foods that will help in boosting the iron content in your body. 

Anemia Diet Plan:

Anemia treatment plans often include dietary changes. Foods rich in iron and other vitamins essential to hemoglobin and red blood cell production are the best diet for anemia. The diet also includes foods that help your body absorb iron better.

There are two types of iron foods: heme iron and nonheme iron.

Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin. Animal foods are the primary source of heme iron. Foods such as red meats, fish, poultry, seafood are rich in heme iron. By contrast, nonheme iron is found in plant-based foods. Foods like grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are rich in nonheme iron.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iron is 10 milligrams for men and 12 milligrams for women. Although anemia treatment plans are differentiated, everyone must require 150 to 200 mg of elemental iron daily. All medicines whether supplements or any other, are best and safest when taken under medical supervision. To get more iron through the diet and help fight iron deficiency anemia add these foods to the diet:

Leafy Greens:

Leafy greens, especially dark ones, are the best sources of nonheme iron. They include:

  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Dandelion greens

Some green leafy vegetables like swiss chard and collard greens also contain folate or folic acid. Folate less diet may cause folate deficiency anemia. Citrus fruits, whole grains, and beans are good sources of folate. Besides, greens like spinach and kale are also high in oxalates. Oxalates bind with iron, preventing the absorption of nonheme iron.

In addition, vitamin C helps your stomach absorb iron. Eating green leafy vegetables with foods like oranges, red peppers, and strawberries increases iron absorption. Some leafy greens like collard greens and swiss chard are good sources of both iron and vitamin C.

Meat and Poultry:

All meat and poultry are rich in heme iron. Lamb, red meat, and venison are good sources. Poultry and chicken have lower amounts of heme iron. Eating meat or poultry with nonheme iron foods such as leafy greens, along with vitamin C-rich fruits can increase iron absorption. 


Organ meats are full of nutrients and are often more nutritious than muscle meats. Most organ meats are the best sources of numerous vitamins and minerals, including many of the B vitamins, iron, and zinc. The liver is the most popular organ meat. It is rich in iron and folate. Some other iron-rich organ meats are the heart, kidney, and brain. 


Some seafood provides heme iron. Shellfish such as oysters, clams, scallops, shrimps, and crabs are good sources. Most of the fishes contain iron. Fish with the best levels of iron include:

  • Canned or fresh tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Pompano
  • Fresh perch
  • Fresh or canned salmon
Avoid Calcium Foods:

Eating iron with calcium reduces the absorption of iron. Avoid foods that are high in calcium while eating iron-rich foods. Some examples of calcium-rich foods to avoid are:

  • Dairy milk
  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Fortified plant milk
  • Cheese
  • Tofu 
Fortified Foods:

Many foods are fortified with iron. If you are a vegetarian or struggling to eat other sources of iron add these food items to your diet:

  • Fortified orange juice
  • Foods made from fortified refined flour
  • Fortified pasta
  • Foods made from fortified cornmeal
  • Fortified ready-to-eat cereals
  • Fortified white rice 

Beans are the best sources of iron both for vegetarians and meat-eaters. They are also versatile and inexpensive. Some iron-rich options are:

  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Soybeans
  • Pinto beans
  • Black-eyed beans
  • Peas
  • Lima beans 
Nuts and Seeds:

Many types of nuts and seeds are the best sources of iron. They are great at their taste and some are sprinkled on salads or yogurt.

Some nuts and seeds that contain iron are:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pistachios
  • Cashews
  • Pine nuts
  • Hemp seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Both roasted and raw nuts have similar amounts of iron. In addition to raw and roasted nuts, nut butter that has less amount of sugar is also advisable. Almonds are also a good source of iron. They are great as part of a healthy eating plan. But since they are high in calcium, they may not increase the iron levels that much in the body. 

Cast Iron Skillet:

A cast-iron skillet is a staple for an anemia diet plan. Foods that are cooked in cast iron absorb iron from the skillet. Acidic foods absorb more iron, and foods cooked for shorter periods absorb the least. 

Guidelines To Follow:

While following a diet plan for anemia, remember these guidelines:

  • Avoid eating iron-rich foods with foods or beverages that block iron absorption. These include coffee or tea, eggs, foods high in calcium, and foods high in oxalates.
  • Take iron-rich foods with vitamin C foods such as oranges, tomatoes, and strawberries for better absorption of iron.
  • Eat iron-rich foods with beta carotene-rich foods such as apricots, red peppers, and beets.
  • Regular intake of heme and nonheme iron foods throughout the day.
  • Eat heme and nonheme iron foods together if possible to increase iron absorption.
  • Add foods that are rich in folic acid or folate and vitamin B12 to support red blood cell production.

Finally, no single food will cure anemia. But eating an overall healthy diet rich in dark, leafy greens, seafood, meats, nuts, and vitamin C fruits and vegetables helps to get the iron sufficient to manage anemia. Consult your healthcare provider to discuss the supplements because it is difficult to get enough iron from diet alone. Add these foods to the diet to reduce the impact of anemia.


Written by Jagannadh Ch