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Anemia and food
The picture of ‘ANAEMIA’ – shared information from Ayurveda on line magazine and the
science of Nutrition.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Anaemia as a ‘Haemoglobin
concentration below 11 g per decilitre of blood’. Haemoglobin is a pigment in red blood
cells that binds oxygen and colours blood red. Normal levels are 12–16 g/dl in healthy
women and 14– 18 g/dl in men.
There are two principal causes of megaloblastic anemia: folate deficiency and vitamin
B12 deficiency.
Both vitamins are required for DNA synthesis, and, hence, the effects of their deficiency
on hematopoiesis are quite similar. However, the causes and consequences of folate
and vitamin
B12 deficiency differ in important ways.
Vitamin B12 is abundant in all animal foods, including eggs and dairy products, and is
resistant to cooking and boiling. Even bacterial contamination of water and nonanimal
foods can provide adequate amounts. As a result, deficiencies due to diet are rare and
are virtually confined to strict vegans. Once vitamin B12 is absorbed, the body handles
it very efficiently. It is stored in the liver, which normally contains reserves that are
sufficient to support bodily needs for 5 to 20 years.
Iron & Food
Iron found in foods is either in the form of heme (derived from hemoglobin, the protein in
red blood cells) or non-heme iron:
Heme Iron foods containing heme iron are the best sources for increasing or
maintaining healthy iron levels. Such foods include clams, oysters, organ meats, beef,
pork, poultry, chicken liver pan-fried, 3 ounces (containing 11 mg/serving) and fish.
Non-Heme iron foods is less well-absorbed. Eggs, dairy products, and iron containing
vegetables have only the non-heme form. Vegetable food products include dried beans
and peas, iron fortified cereals, bread, and pasta products, dark green leafy vegetables
(chard, spinach, mustard greens, kale), dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. Heme iron in
almost 20 times more absorbable than nonheme iron and absorption of nonheme iron
often depends on the food balances in meals. The following foods and cooking methods
can enhance absorption of iron:
Meat and fish not only contain heme iron — the best form for maintaining iron in the
body — but they also help absorb non-heme iron. Green foods and drinks are essential
for anemia sufferers. They are rich in folic acid and many of them are also rich in iron,
particularly watercress, dandelion leaves, and the brassicas (cabbage family). Although
beet greens and spinach are also rich in iron, they are also high in oxalic acid, which
prevents minerals from being utilized by the body. Therefore, these foods should be
eaten sparingly. Eating foods rich in vitamin C will help significantly in the absorption of
the type of
iron found in vegetables. Other vegetables which are especially beneficial for the
anemics include parsley, green pepper, carrots, kale, and asparagus.
There are also food high in iron ( depends what kind of anemia you have) as kidney and
pinto beans, blackstrap molasses, rice bran, raw beet greens, mustard greens, lentils,
dried peaches and prune juice. This is considered the food with the highest content of
iron, 5 mg per serving.
- Food with moderately high content of iron , 3-5 mg per serving, include cooked dried
unsulfured apricots, cooked green beet, dates, lima beans, chili, cooked spinach and
dry and fresh peas. Spirulina or blue green algae, has been used successfully to treat
- Beetroot juice, made from raw beets with a good addition of green drink. Beetroot juice
contains phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium, as well as
vitamin A and C, niacin, folic acid and biotin. When these nutrients are captured in a
juicing process, they remain in a form that is much easier to assimilate than synthetic
- Blackstrap molasses and Brewer's yeast a good source of B vitamins;
- Curry powder, rich source of iron, around 50-60 mg /100 gr. Fermented food as well.
Cooking in cast iron pans and skillets can help increase the iron content in food.
- As supplements - Vitamin C, B12 and folate found in broccoli, cabbage, citrus fruits,
melon, tomatoes and strawberries may increase absorption of non-heme iron. B2 in
dairy products and dried fortified cereals. Folate, in avocado, bananas, orange juice,
cold cereal, asparagus, fruits, leafy green, etc. Zinc is also a good supplement for
anemia. The recommended daily amount of folic acid or folate for teenagers and adults
is 400 mcg. Women who are pregnant need 600 mcg per day and women who are
breastfeeding need 500 mcg daily.
Copper acts as a catalyst in the formation of hemoglobin.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) may help enhance the response of hemoglobin to iron. Food
sources of this vitamin include dairy products, liver, and dried fortified cereals.
Deficiencies are rare in young people, although the elderly may have trouble absorbing
natural vitamin B12 and require synthetic forms from supplements and fortified foods.
Unsulfured dried fruits are also a rich source of iron, as well as B vitamins.
Calcium helps to regulate the timing release or intake of iron into the RBC, thus
affecting its lifespan. Since calcium also competes for the same absorption sites as iron,
zinc, and copper, deficiencies of these minerals can occur if one consumes great
amounts of calcium. When taken in supplemental form, calcium should be taken
separately at bedtime.
Calcium, vitamin E, zinc, copper, magnesium or antacids should not be taken at the
same time as iron supplements since they can interfere with iron absorption.
Coffee and tea: Coffee contains polyphenols and tea contains tannins, both of which
render any iron found in food unusable.
Drugs, as aspirin, steroids, and other drugs that tend to cause gastrointestinal bleeding
will affect iron absorption.
Fiber - because iron is removed through the stool, do not eat foods high in iron at the
same time as fiber and avoid using bran as a source of fiber
If you have any problem of this kind, please call us at
NUTRIHOM – Nutrition & Homeopathy
Marilena Gavrila – Reg. Nutritionist &
Homeopath Practitioner
[email protected]
Thank you