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Eating to Prevent Anemia

Meat, a good source of iron

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What is anemia?

Anemia is a blood disorder.

Anemia is when your body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells.

Anemia can be life threatening.

Your blood carries oxygen throughout your body.

Oxygen helps your body work properly.

Oxygen gives you energy and makes you look & feel healthy.

If you have anemia, your body can’t get the oxygen it needs.

Red blood cells bring oxygen from your lungs to your brain, tissues, and organs.

Iron Deficiency Anemia is the most common type of anemia.

Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) happens when you don’t have enough iron in your body to make hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells.

Hemoglobin helps your blood to carry oxygen to all your tissues and organs so that your body works and feels right!

You may have Iron Deficiency Anemia if you feel:

  • Very weak, tired, or lightheaded
  • Numb or cold in your hands and feet
  • Like eating things besides food (like ice, dirt, or starch)

You may have Iron Deficiency Anemia if you have:

  • Skin that is more pale than usual
  • Frequent headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Shortness of breath
  • A rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Brittle nails
  • A poor appetite

Anyone can get Iron Deficiency Anemia.

But you may be at extra risk if you are:

  • A woman
  • Pregnant
  • Still growing (a child or teenager)
  • A vegetarian or someone who eats a diet low in iron
  • A frequent user of aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Someone who lost or donated blood recently
  • Someone who can’t absorb iron (from Celiac/Crohn’s disease)

If you feel sick, call the doctor!

Tell the doctor about your symptoms.

  • What are you feeling in your body? Are you tired or short of breath? Are your hands and feet always cold?
  • Be as specific as you can. This will help you get the best treatment!

The doctor may give you some tests.

The doctor may test the level of red blood cells in your blood.

If you have Iron Deficiency Anemia, the doctor may order additional tests to figure out the cause.

To get better, you may need to:

  • Eat foods with a lot of iron
  • Take pills to build up the iron in your body
  • Take antibiotics or other medications if you have an ulcer
  • Have surgery to heal a source of internal bleeding
  • Put iron-rich blood in your body (only if your anemia is severe)

Prevent Iron Deficiency Anemia! Eat foods that contain iron.

Meat and fish have a lot of iron:

  • Meat (beef, pork, lamb, liver)
  • Shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters)
  • Fish (sardines, anchovies, salmon, tuna)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck)
  • If you don’t eat meat (and even if you do), you need to get iron from other foods too.

Vegetables, beans, grains, and nuts also have iron.

Vegetarians (and everyone else) can get iron from:

  • Breakfast cereals with iron (the box will say if the cereal has iron)
  • Cooked beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Pasta, potatoes, and rice
  • Broccoli and spinach

To get the most iron out of vegetables, beans, and grains:

Eat them with small portions of meat, fish, or poultry

A good source of Vitamin C, like:

  • Orange, grapefruit, or tomato juice
  • Fresh fruit
  • Vegetables (especially broccoli, peas, red bell peppers or raw greens)

Some foods prevent your body from absorbing iron:

  • Coffee and tea
  • Red wine
  • Whole grains, bran
  • Soy products
    • Try not to eat these foods at the same time as iron-rich foods (like meat, beans, and nuts).
  • Check out this tool for more about how to eat an iron-rich diet!

Use these links to learn more about Iron Deficiency Anemia :

  • Mayo Clinic: Food & Nutrition
  • U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services – Women’s Health

Check out these websites for more about iron-rich foods:

  • WebMD: Top 10 Iron-Rich Foods
  • Iron Rich Foods for Iron Deficiency Anemia
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Last updated on Thu, 06/17/2010 - 12:55