If you have anemia, especially anemia brought about by iron-deficiency, below are some foods that will benefit you. (Check out the later sections if you are a vegetarian).


Meats like beef, pork, mutton, fish and poultry are some of the best foods for anemic people with iron-deficiencies.

This is because substantial amounts of iron are found in these foods. For example, 3 ounces of roasted white turkey contains 1 milligram of iron, while 3 ounces of tuna (water-packed) contains 2.7 milligrams of iron.

The form of iron found in meats (i.e. heme iron) is biologically more available to our bodies, as compared to the iron found in vegetables (i.e. non-heme iron). This means that our bodies are able to absorb the mineral more readily from meats than from vegetables.

What if you eat very little meat?

If you eat little to no meat, you will have to pay special attention to your diet to keep yourself from becoming iron-deficient or anemic.

If you do consume a little bit of meat, eat them with your iron-rich vegetables. This is because the heme iron in the meats can “potentiate” the non-heme iron in the vegetables for better absorption, according to Henry C. Lukaski, PHD, assistant director of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

What if you don’t eat meat?

If you do not consume any meat, one of the things you could do is to consume your iron-rich vegetables with other vitamin-C-rich foods (e.g. tomatoes, citrus juices). This is because iron is best absorbed in an acidic environment, especially if the acid is ascorbic acid (ie. vitamin C).

As such, potatoes (with their skin left on) are one of the good sources of iron for vegetarians. This is because potatoes with skin contain both vitamin C and iron.

Other sources of iron-rich foods include blackstrap molasses, kidney beans, fresh peas, rice bran, lentils, pinto beans, lima beans, mustard greens and spinach.

What NOT to eat with your iron-rich foods

Besides selecting your foods carefully, it is also important to take note of the foods to avoid eating with your iron-rich foods for maximal absorption of the mineral.

Foods you should avoid taking with your iron-rich foods include calcium-rich foods, tea and coffee. This is because these foods can interfere with your body’s absorption of iron from your iron-rich foods.

Beyond iron – B12 for vegetarians

Another cause of anemia in vegetarians is the lack of vitamin B12, which is found mainly in animal foods. If they are not careful, strict vegetarians can become severely deficient in this important vitamin after a while (it takes about 5-6 years for signs of the deficiency to manifest). Besides pernicious anemia, deficiency in this vitamin can lead to fatigue, impaired nerve functions (e.g. numbness or tingling in the limbs) and impaired mental functions (e.g. symptoms that mimic Alzheimer’s disease).

A good source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians is the brewer’s yeast. This nutritional food is also beneficial for those with acne problems, and it can help lower detrimental LDL cholesterol levels.

[1] Collins, Elise Marie. An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper’s Companion. San Francisco, California: Conari Press, 2009. Print.
[1] Murray, Michael T., ND. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements: The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1996. Print.

Cindy L. TJOL is trained in Psychology, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has several years of experience writing on natural health on the internet. Follow her on her blog and read her other articles at Insights On Health.com.

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