The blood in our body is the only medium through which oxygen travels in the body. Our blood contains red blood cells which in turn contain haemoglobin - an iron-rich protein that sticks to the oxygen molecules in the lungs and then transfers it to the blood capillaries which travel throughout the body.

Anaemia is a condition in which the quality or the number of red blood cells in the body reduces. A person with anaemia does not have enough oxygen-rich blood. This leads to various symptoms like:

Mild anaemia is a common condition mostly seen in women, especially during menses and pregnancy. It can be managed easily with the help of iron-rich food and iron supplements. Sometimes, anaemia can also be a sign of many underlying serious conditions such as bleeding ulceration in the stomach, kidney disease or an autoimmune disease like autoimmune hemolytic anaemia. 

Often, people get anaemic due to lack of iron in the body - this is known as iron-deficiency anaemia. The body needs iron to make red blood cells and haemoglobin which are essential for delivering oxygen to various organs of the body.

In order to fulfil the need for iron in the body, dietary changes should be made and food rich in iron, protein, folate (vitamin B9) and vitamin B12 should be included in the diet.

There are basically two types of iron that are derived from food sources: heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is derived from meat, poultry and seafood. And non-heme iron is derived from plant sources. Heme iron is more easily and well absorbed by the body.

  1. What to eat when you have anaemia
  2. What not to eat when you have anaemia
Doctors for Anemia Diet

These are the food items that should be eaten by an anaemic person:

Green leafy vegetables for anaemia

Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of non-heme iron and should be consumed on a regular basis in order to increase haemoglobin levels. Vegetables that increase the haemoglobin levels are:

Some green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach contain oxalates which make it difficult for the non-heme iron to get absorbed. You can take vitamin C with the greens as it helps in better absorption of iron in the stomach. For example, your could squeeze a little lemon juice on your salad leaves.

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Beans for treating anaemia

Beans are a rich source of proteins and have a high quantity of folate in them. This folate helps in making more red blood cells which in turn increases the haemoglobin level of the body. Some of the common beans are:

  • Kidney beans (rajma)
  • Soybeans
  • Chickpeas (choley)
  • Black-eyed peas (lobia or raungi)
  • Pinto beans or lightly speckled beans (rajma chitra)
  • Black beans (kale chole)

Whole grains for treating anaemia

Whole grains are unprocessed grains which contain all three parts of the grain: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The outer hard shell of the grain, called bran, provides fibre, vitamin B, iron, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants to the body. They help in increasing the haemoglobin levels of the blood. Some of the iron-rich whole grain meals are:

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Brown rice

Nuts and seeds for treating anaemia

Various nuts and seeds have a lot of iron in them and are recommended for people with anaemia. Iron-rich nuts and seeds are:

Organ meat for treating anaemia

The liver is undoubtedly a reservoir of iron and folate. It helps in increasing the haemoglobin levels of an anaemic person. Some organ meats which are rich in iron are:

  • Chicken liver
  • Turkey legs
  • Goat bone broth
  • Buff tongue

Seafood for treating anaemia

Most of the fish we eat has iron in it. Some seafood, like salmon, is not only rich in iron but also calcium. Calcium helps in the better absorption of iron in the body. Some of the seafood that is rich in iron includes: 

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Oysters
  • Clams 
  • Shrimps

Other foods to eat in anaemia

Other food items that help in increasing the haemoglobin levels in an anaemic person are: 

  • Tofu: Tofu is a soy-based product which is rich in iron. Tofu is rich in protein and low in fats. Around half a cup (126 grams) of tofu contains 3.4 mg of iron. But it should be taken along with vitamin C for better iron absorption.
  • Sugarcane: Sugarcane is rich in iron and so, helps in increasing the haemoglobin levels of the blood.
  • Peanut butter: Peanut butter not only provides iron to the body but also improves its absorption, thus increasing the haemoglobin of the body.

Anaemia during pregnancy is quite common, as the volume of blood increases to supply nutrition and oxygen to the growing foetus as well as the mom-to-be. These foods can be safely added to the pregnancy diet to increase haemoglobin levels in pregnant women. Expecting mothers who have haemoglobin levels less than 10 grams per deciliter of blood are considered anaemic.

Unless they have a food allergy to peanuts, pregnant women should definitely add these "nuts" to their diet as they are rich in unsaturated fats, proteins, iron and antioxidants.

Pregnant women with gestational diabetes should consult their doctor before adding sugarcane to their diet.

There are certain foods and beverages which block the absorption of iron in the body. These foods are:

  • Oxalate-rich foods like spinach, beetroot and sweet potatoes
  • Calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, yoghurt and tofu
  • Caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee
  • Eggs
Dr. Dhanamjaya D

Dr. Dhanamjaya D

15 Years of Experience

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Dt. Surbhi Upadhyay

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Dt. Manjari Purwar

Dt. Manjari Purwar

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