These days, feeling tired and weak, feeling dizzy, and having a shortness of breath immediately conjure up thoughts of Covid-19. However, these symptoms could also be a sign of anemia. Anemia occurs when people have less hemoglobin in their blood than they should for their age. It’s often caused by an iron deficiency, but other nutrients play a role in hemoglobin production, too.
Anemia can often be addressed through the diet. It’s important to get enough iron in the diet, as well as enough vitamin C to help absorb the iron. Foods should also contain nutrients such as vitamin B12 and folate.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to address anemia through nutrition, read through this list of the 15 best foods for low iron. At the end of this article, I’ll share three meal ideas for boosting iron right away.
Table of Contents
- 15 Fantastic Anemia Diet Foods
15 Fantastic Anemia Diet Foods
- Chicken Liver
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
Chicken liver is rich in iron, and it could help fight iron-deficient anemia. One cup of cooked, diced chicken liver provides 78% of the daily recommendation for iron. It also contains other anemia-fighting nutrients, such as folate and vitamin B12. A cup of chicken liver provides 204% of the daily recommendation for folate and 879% for vitamin B12.
Chicken liver is also very rich in vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, selenium, and zinc. A serving of chicken liver supplies around 25% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C, too. This could help fight iron-deficient anemia by helping the body absorb more iron.
With chicken liver, buying organic sources could be important, because non-organic chicken liver could contain more arsenic.
Most legumes are relatively rich in iron, and that holds true for lentils. A cup of raw lentils provides 69% of the daily recommendation for iron, as well as 10% for vitamin C and 230% for folate. Folate is important for fighting anemia because it helps form red blood cells.
Lentils contain other nutrients that boost overall health. They’re rich in protein, and they provide significant amounts of fiber, which could help build a healthy gut microbiome. Having a healthy gut could impact some types of anemia.
Lentils also contain high levels of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and minerals such as manganese, potassium, and zinc.
Like chicken liver, oysters provide a significant amount of iron. An ounce of smoked oysters provides 12% of the daily recommendation for iron, as well as 167% of the daily recommendation for vitamin B12. Like folate, vitamin B12 is involved in producing red blood cells, which are necessary for addressing anemia.
Zinc is also necessary for fighting certain types of anemia. An ounce of smoked oysters provides 163% of the daily recommendation for zinc. Oysters are rich in other minerals, too, such as selenium, copper, and phosphorus. Some types of anemia could be related to copper deficiency, although copper deficiency is rare, and phosphorus is a biomarker for anemia. Anemia can also sometimes be caused by a selenium deficiency.
Spinach is a superfood that’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that impact overall health. A cup of raw spinach contains 16% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, which is interesting because a vitamin A deficiency could be related to anemia.
Because of its role in proper blood clotting, vitamin K could help prevent anemia resulting from too much bleeding. A cup of spinach provides 121% of the daily recommendation for vitamin K, as well as 15% for folate and 9% for vitamin C.
Spinach is rich in minerals, too. These include manganese, magnesium, and potassium. A cup of spinach also provides 4% of the daily recommendation of iron. Spinach is also easy to blend in smoothies or green drinks that boost iron consumption.
Red meats like beef are rich in iron and protein. A four-ounce serving of 97%-lean ground beef provides 15% of the daily recommendation for iron and 50% for protein. Beef also provides several B vitamins, including folate and 106% of the daily recommendation for vitamin B12.
Where beef really shines is in the minerals it provides. In addition to iron, a serving of lean ground beef contains zinc, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Many of these minerals help prevent or address anemia.
Root vegetables like potatoes are often rich in minerals, and potatoes are no exception. One medium baked potato with the skin on provides around 17% of the daily recommendation for iron. It also supplies 32% of the daily recommendation for potassium, which is interesting because red blood cells contain a lot of potassium.
Potatoes provide several B vitamins, a significant level of folate, and a surprisingly high amount of vitamin C. One baked potato provides around 30% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C. Potatoes are also rich in magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and zinc.
Sardines have an impressive nutrient profile that could be helpful for addressing anemia. A cup of canned sardines contains 555% of the daily recommendation for vitamin B12, which is important because vitamin B12 helps produce red blood cells. Sardines also contain vitamins A, K, folate, and several B vitamins.
Several minerals can help prevent anemia, and many of these are found in sardines. These include phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, magnesium, and copper. Iron is one of the key minerals for preventing anemia. A cup of canned sardines provides 24% of the daily recommendation for iron.
Like lentils, beans are rich in protein, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals. The fiber helps increase gut health, while several of the vitamins and minerals help prevent anemia. There are several varieties of beans that have different levels of nutrients for addressing anemia.
For example, a cup of black beans contains 215% of the daily recommendation for folate, as well as 98% for phosphorus, 181% for copper, and 64% for zinc. Compare that to a cup of pinto beans, which provides 253% of the daily recommendation for folate, 14% for vitamin C, 191% for copper, and 98% for selenium. Both types of beans contain 54% of the daily recommendation for iron.
Not every high-iron, anemia-fighting food has to be a part of a full meal. Pumpkin seeds make great snacks on their own, and they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals for fighting anemia.
Just an ounce of shelled pumpkin seeds provides 13% of the daily recommendation for iron—almost as much as is found in a medium baked potato. This serving size also contains several B vitamins, vitamins E, C, and K, and minerals such as copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Pumpkin seeds are good for more than just combating anemia. They have a high fiber content, too, and they’re known to promote heart health, help reduce anxiety, lower inflammation in diseases like arthritis, and help prevent osteoporosis.
Turkey, especially dark turkey meat, is a star when it comes to providing iron and other anemia-fighting nutrients. A three-ounce serving of roasted turkey thigh meat provides 7% of the daily recommendation for iron.
The iron found in turkey meat is also heme iron, which is a different form of iron than iron found in vegetables such as spinach or broccoli. Heme iron comes from meat sources and is often easier to absorb than non-heme iron.
Besides iron, this serving size of turkey provides several B vitamins, including 58% of the daily recommendation for vitamin B12. It also supplies significant amounts of copper, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
Quinoa is a high-fiber, high-protein seed that’s often used in place of rice. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals, too. A cup of quinoa contains 19% of the daily recommendation for fiber, which could increase gut health, plus 16% for protein and 15% for iron. Quinoa is also rich in folate, B vitamins, and several anemia-fighting minerals, including copper, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
One interesting thing about quinoa is that it contains all nine essential amino acids. It’s also gluten-free, and it contains several anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that could help prevent disease throughout the body.
Like beef and turkey, ham is rich in heme iron that comes from animal sources. Two slices of ham roast provide around 4% of the daily recommendation for iron. Ham also provides around 26% of the daily recommendation for protein.
Ham is a high-sodium food, and it’s also a highly-processed food. Some sources recommend limiting the intake of highly processed foods.
Like spinach, broccoli is rich in iron, vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, and other nutrients that could prevent or help rectify anemia. A cup of raw broccoli provides 3% of the daily recommendation for iron, with 77% for vitamin C and 65% for vitamin K. Besides iron, broccoli is also a good source of several anemia-fighting minerals.
One interesting thing about broccoli is that, like all cruciferous vegetables, it contains a compound called sulforaphane. While sulforaphane hasn’t been associated with anemia, it can help the health of the body overall. Sulforaphane is known to fight some cancers, as well as viruses. It also supports heart health, reduces inflammation, and boosts detoxification in the liver.
Dark chocolate is a surprisingly healthy food. The darker and more bitter it is, and the less sugar it has, the better it is for you. Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols and antioxidants. It’s good for heart health, balancing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and has anti-inflammatory properties, too.
Dark chocolate is known for its rich concentration of minerals, including copper, iron, and magnesium. An ounce of 70-85% dark chocolate provides 11% of the daily recommendation for fiber, as well as 19% for iron.
Molasses is a thick, sticky, dark syrupy biproduct of making sugar. It’s sometimes used as a food additive to flavor or give color to some refined foods. However, by itself, molasses is a nutrient-high syrup that’s relatively low in sugar.
Just one tablespoon of molasses provides 5% of the daily recommendation for iron. It’s also a significant source of B vitamins, copper, magnesium, and manganese.
Three Iron-Rich Meal Ideas To Fight Anemia Immediately
Now that you’ve read through the 15 best foods for low iron, I have a few meal ideas to share with you. These meal ideas combine foods from the list above so that you get a nice mix of nutrients, along with the iron you need.
Meal idea #1: Steak And Potatoes
If you’re struggling with anemia, this classic meal could be just what you’re looking for. Both steak and potatoes contain iron. Potatoes also provide vitamin C, which could help with iron absorption, and the steak contains several other minerals that could help prevent anemia. You could consider adding a side of broccoli for even more vitamin C and iron.
Meal idea #2: White Bean Chili With Turkey
Iron can be found both in white beans and in turkey. The beans also contain a significant amount of folate, and the turkey provides vitamin B12. These two nutrients are also necessary for producing red blood cells, so this meal addresses anemia from several angles.
Meal idea #3: Ham And Quinoa With Spinach
Ham, quinoa, and spinach are all rich in iron. The spinach provides folate, vitamin C, and vitamin A, as well as other anemia-fighting minerals. Quinoa provides both minerals and fiber. This meal is also excellent at addressing anemia in several ways.