Anemia: Here’s what to eat and what to avoid

According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency Anemia is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world. But getting enough iron from your diet isn’t simply a matter of Anemia from eating iron-rich foods. There’s a complex relationship at play between your iron levels. The iron contained in food and your body’s ability to absorb it. Meanwhile, at the same time, anemia isce is Anemia far from settled. It seems to be less about individual foods than the meal as a whole. Here are examples of foods that can boost or bust your iron intake.


Coffee may interfere with the absorption and possibly even the storage of dietary iron. Caffeine plays a small role in this effect. The main culprit appears to be polyphenols (meaning decaffeinated coffee is not exempt). Drinking coffee at least one hour before meals will mitigate. The impact on iron intake ensures that you can still enjoy the many health benefits of polyphenols.


While egg yolks are naturally iron-rich, eggs contain a protein called phosvitin that binds up the high iron content. Making it less available for digestion. Phosvitin in eggs may also prevent the absorption of iron from other foods. The good news is that ascorbic acid—vitamin C—helps to release iron. So, a simple glass of orange juice with your morning omelet can ensure you get the most from your meal.


The calcium in dairy interferes with iron absorption, but fortunately, the effect seems to be short-lived. Because calcium is an essential part of a healthy diet. The best strategy to combat Anemia is to consume dairy products (and foods fortified with calcium). A couple of hours before or after iron-rich meals to maximize the benefits of both.

Whole-wheat bread

Whole-wheat bread may be high in fiber, but the bran in whole grains also contains high levels of phytate (phytic acid), a compound found in many plants that have been shown to interfere with iron absorption. Sourdough bread—fermented with lactic acid instead of traditional yeast—may be a better option as it is naturally lower in phytate; adding vitamin C or meat to the meal can also help counteract the effect.


Tea, like coffee, is rich in polyphenols and tannins that may interfere with the absorption of dietary iron. Surprisingly, one study showed the effect is seen not only in black tea but also in several herbal teas, peppermint, and chamomile in particular. The inhibitory effect appears most pronounced when tea is taken at mealtime, so if you are anemic, there is no need to ditch the cuppa—don’t drink it with food.


Soya is a confounding food in the context of iron deficiency. Naturally high in iron, soya beans are also high in phytate, which appears to inhibit iron absorption markedly. Soya protein has also been shown to decrease iron absorption. Fermented soya products such as tofu, tempeh, and miso have better iron bioavailability, while soya sauce may even enhance iron absorption in meals. The upshot? Soya contains enough iron to offer a net gain, and adding ascorbic acid to the meal may help overcome the inhibitory effects.

Olive oil

Heart-healthy olive oil is high in polyphenols such as quercetin that have been shown to interfere with iron absorption; in fact, the reduction in iron levels itself has been associated with the protective cardiovascular effects of olive oil consumption. However, olive oil polyphenols only affect nonheme iron (from plant sources) and do not inhibit heme iron (from animal sources).


Almonds, like most nuts, are high in compounds that appear to inhibit iron absorption, including phytate, polyphenols, and calcium. However, given that they are also a good source of nutrition, almonds can be consumed alone as a snack to avoid blocking iron in meals or with vitamin C to offset the inhibitory effect. Another strategy used with grains, pulses, and nuts high in phytates is to soak or sprout them, which reduces their phytate content significantly.

Dark chocolate

Cocoa is an excellent example of the complexities of iron in plant foods. Cacao beans (unprocessed) are high in both nonheme iron and the polyphenols that inhibit iron absorption. However, cocoa beans (roasted beans) are also fermented before being processed into cocoa powder and then chocolate; that fermentation process breaks down much of the polyphenols and phytate, making the iron more available for absorption. The upshot? Chocolate, incredibly dark chocolate, is a good source of dietary iron.


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