Nutrition Tips for Iron Deficiency Anemia

How To Treat Iron Deficiency Anemia

Do you frequently feel tired, weak, or short of breath? Are you cold often, including cold hands and feet? Do you have regular headaches? If so, you may have iron-deficiency anemia. Self-diagnosis isn’t recommended, so we encourage you to see your doctor for lab testing. In the meantime, here are a few nutrition tips to help support healthy iron in the blood.

In this video, Amanda Haney will teach you about iron deficiency anemia, including what it is and how you can improve it by consuming foods high in iron. 

Continue reading for more information.

What is iron deficiency anemia?

Anemia occurs when you have a low level of hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia and is a result of low blood iron.

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Beef is high in heme iron

Eat high iron foods

Iron is a mineral found in food. There are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Your body is able to absorb heme iron better than non-heme iron.

Heme iron

Heme iron comes from meat products including chicken, chicken liver, beef, beef liver, pork, and seafood.

Non-heme iron

On the other hand, non-heme iron comes from plant food sources including spinach, beans and lentils, fortified breakfast cereals, baked potato (with the skin), prunes, and nuts (especially cashews and almonds).

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Kiwi is great to pair with iron rich foods

Don’t forget the Vitamin C

Pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods helps enhance the absorption of iron. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, kiwi, pineapple, mango, broccoli, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes.

Personally, one of my favorite iron-rich meals is spaghetti with meat sauce. The vitamin C from the marinara sauce helps the body absorb the iron from the meat. Another option is to create a spinach salad with red peppers and a lemon-oil dressing.

Find the duo of iron and Vitamin C that work best for you!

Avoid coffee when consuming iron rich foods

Foods to avoid

Finally, limit foods that inhibit iron absorption. Examples include coffee, tea, dairy products, and foods high in phytates. Phytates are compounds located in the outer layer of nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains. You can reduce phytates in these foods by soaking or sprouting grains and legumes 24-hours before cooking.

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People at risk of iron deficiency anemia

Lastly, certain people have a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia, these people include infants and children, pregnant women, women of childbearing age, vegetarians and vegans, and those with intestinal conditions like Chron’s disease or gastrointestinal surgeries. These specific conditions may require additional iron supplements. Work closely with your registered dietitian and your doctor to determine if supplements are necessary for you.

Final thoughts

Whether you have been diagnosed, or know you may be at risk, these changes can help prevent iron deficiency anemia. Meet with your registered dietitian today to begin increasing the iron from your meals!

What foods or supplements do you consume to treat iron deficiency anemia? Share your insight in the comments below!

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Hi, my name is Amanda Haney. I am a registered dietitian, board-certified nutrition support clinician, Cal State Long Beach alumnae, and former pediatric clinical dietitian. Currently, I am working as a project manager at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. As a clinical dietitian or in my current role, my passion is working in a diverse setting with a variety of teams in order to improve patient outcomes and achieve better health for the families in my community. I became a dietitian because I love food and I love medicine. There is so much misinformation about nutrition in the media, so I enjoy creating educational content that makes nutrition simple and to make your health goals achievable. In my free time, I love soaking up the beauty at the beach, riding my bike, staying active, cooking, and, most of all, spending time with my family and friends!