Healing Kitchen

Consuming iron-rich meals and snacks can help stave off the weakness and pallor of iron deficiency anemia, the most common form of anemia. Though there is controversy over taking iron supplements, foods high in iron, including iron-fortified cereals, provide essential amounts of this vital mineral, which is a critical component of hemoglobin (the blood's oxygen-carrying pigment).

Two different types of iron—heme and non-heme—are found in food. The body absorbs heme iron at three times the rate of non-heme iron. Highly bioavailable, readily absorbed heme iron is found exclusively in meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish, while less bioavailable non-heme iron is significantly present in such plant foods as beans, grains, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables.

Experts recommend eating food that enhances iron absorption along with iron-rich food, particularly when consuming non-heme iron. Nutrients that improve non-heme iron absorption include vitamin C, an organic acid called citric acid, and the amino acid cysteine. Citrus fruits are good sources of citric acid and cysteine is plentiful in amaranth, cottage cheese, fish, poultry, shellfish, and soy products. Collectively known as the MFP factor, certain animal proteins found in meat, fish, and poultry also enhance absorption of non-heme iron. Cooking foods in iron skillets or steel cookware may improve iron content of foods. Interestingly, because dried peaches and raisins are prepared in iron pans, these fruits contain more iron than their fresh fruit. Experts recommend drinking coffee and tea well before a meal (at least one hour before), as the tannins and other iron-binding substances in these beverages interfere with the absorption of iron.

Consuming a diet high in vitamin B12 is beneficial for pernicious anemia, and eating a folate-rich diet helps to manage folate deficiency anemia, or megaloblastic anemia. Similar to its enhancing effect on iron absorption, vitamin C also improves folate absorption. In rare cases, inadequate vitamin E intake may lead to hemolytic anemia. Note that beta-carotene, protein, and vitamin B6 are also essential blood-nourishing nutrients.

We believe that it's possible to manage and/or improve certain conditions through what you eat. When we create "Mega-Recipes" for an ailment, we strive to include the maximum number of the nutrients that are shown to have benefit for that ailment. We also expect the Mega-Recipe to contain at least 25% of recommended intakes for those nutrients. See the list of recipes that have met our criteria for this ailment.

What You Should Eat & Why

This healing carotenoid is converted in our bodies to vitamin A, which may help to mobilize stored iron from the liver.
Leading Food Sources of beta-carotene: Carrots, Spinach, Sweet potatoes, Squash, winter, Apricots, Cantaloupe

folic acid
A diet rich in folate can help to stave off folate deficiency anemia. Note that cooking can destroy folate in food, rendering it unavailable to the body.
Leading Food Sources of folic acid: Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Avocados, Spinach, Brussels sprouts, Beans, dried, Chick-peas, Soybeans, Lentils, Oranges, Peas, fresh, Turkey, Cabbage, Savoy, Bok choy

vitamin B12
By assisting folate, vitamin B12 helps to manufacture red blood cells.
Leading Food Sources of vitamin B12: Beef, Trout, Crab, Oysters, Clams, Tuna, Yogurt, Lamb

vitamin B6
This B-vitamin is required for proper formation of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of our red blood cells.
Leading Food Sources of vitamin B6: Sweet potatoes, Avocados, Bananas, Mangoes, Rice, brown, Chicken, Sunflower seeds, Tuna, Chick-peas, Salmon, Pork, fresh, Potatoes, Turkey, Bok choy, Barley

vitamin C
By enhancing the absorption of iron in the digestive tract and converting folate to its active form, vitamin C can help to reverse anemia.
Leading Food Sources of vitamin C: Cabbage, red, Strawberries, Tangerines & other mandarins, Peppers, bell, red, Oranges, Kiwi fruit, Potatoes

vitamin E
The exact of role of vitamin E in red blood cells is unclear. In rare instances, vitamin E deficiency may lead to hemolytic anemia, where red blood cells rupture.
Leading Food Sources of vitamin E: Broccoli, Sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, Peanuts, Avocados, Almonds, Mangoes

Date Published: 05/03/2005
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