Fight Anemia with Foods Rich in Vitamins C, B12, Folate, Iron, or with Iron and Vitamin B12 Supplements
Lots of foods remedy anemia by being rich in vitamins C, B12, folate and iron. Iron is the key nutrient that promotes healthy red blood cells. Vitamin C is important for iron absorption. Foods rich in iron and vitamin C include beef, poultry, egg yolks, peas, raisins, blackstrap molasses, citrus fruits – especially oranges – and green leafy vegetables.
Anemia Defined, and its Symptoms
Anemia is the general term that puts under one category a variety of disorders that make red blood cells unable to carry sufficient oxygen. This condition may be a result of low hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is the iron- and protein-based red pigment of the blood that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. The more popular or pervasive forms of anemia are iron-deficiency anemia, hemolytic anemia, and pernicious or megaloblastic anemia. Rare types of anemia include thalassemia and aplastic anemia.
Symptoms of anemia include weakness, pallor, fatigue, shortness of breath, fainting and cardiac arrhythmia.
Foods and Nutrients that Fight Anemia
- Iron is the number one nutrient that fights anemia. The human body uses iron to manufacture red blood cells. The best sources of iron are animal products, like meat, fish, poultry and egg yolks. The body absorbs more of the heme iron found in these foods. Nonheme iron is less absorbed by the body. This type of iron can be found in plant sources like green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, soy products, legumes, nuts, seeds, and iron-enriched breads and cereals. But heme iron from animal sources promotes absorption of nonheme iron from vegetable sources if consumed in the same meal.
- Vitamin B12 is released by stomach acids from protein in food. The vitamin is then absorbed in the bloodstream. This means that a vitamin B12 deficiency might occur if the stomach produces insufficient acids. Pernicious or megaloblastic anemia results from vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is also crucial for the production of red blood cells. Rich food sources for vitamin B12 include organ meats, poultry, fish, egg yolk. An important note: Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products. This is one reason why vegetarians are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Vitamin C enhances the absorption especially of nonheme iron from plant sources. Citrus fruits like oranges are the rich sources of vitamin C.
- Deficiency of folate, another B vitamin, leads to anemia in pregnant women (who need folate for fetus development), in alcoholics, and the elderly. Sources of folate include green leafy vegetables, lentils, beans, asparagus, corn and enriched grains.
Iron and/or Vitamin B12 Supplements
- One third of the elderly produce inadequate stomach acids for vitamin B12 absorption. Thus a supplement of vitamin B12 might be needed. Individuals over 50 might need their daily vitamin B12 needs from fortified food or supplements.
- Iron supplementation should come only under a physician’s supervision. Never take iron supplements unless blood tests confirm iron deficiency. Excess iron is dangerous. Up to 10 percent of the population suffers from undiagnosed hemochromatosis, or an overload of iron. Iron supplements for these individuals can have catastrophic effects.
Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal: An A to Z Guide to Safe and Healthy Eating. The Reader’s Digest. 2004, Montreal, Canada. 416 pages. Hardbound.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or as guide for treatment without the opinion of a health professional. A physician’s advice is more important and reliable for any health concern.