Foods and Supplements for Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron Rich Foods for Low Iron Levels

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Iron Rich Foods to Prevent and Treat Iron Deficiency Anemia Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia and frequently occurs in girls and women during the female reproductive years. While blood loss frequently causes iron deficiency anemia, increasing your dietary intake of iron-rich foods can both help prevent and treat low iron levels in your blood.

When your doctor diagnoses iron deficiency anemia, you should eat a diet high in iron, folic acid, and vitamin C.

Vitamin C is necessary to help your body absorb iron better. Your doctor may also prescribe iron supplements, as well as vitamin C supplements to help increase your iron levels.

Girls and women with iron deficiency anemia should increase their intake of red meat such as beef and liver. This is because the iron in meat is more easily absorbed than the iron in fruits and vegetables.

Other good sources of dietary iron include:

  • egg yolks
  • fish and shellfish
  • poultry
  • pork
  • prune juice
  • dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and peaches
  • beans and nuts including legumes, peas, almonds, peanut butter, and red, white, and baked beans
  • whole grain bread
  • iron-fortified cereals, breads, and pasta
  • dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and greens

You can increase your vitamin C intake by eating more:

  • oranges, grapefruits, lemons and other citrus fruits (including fruit juices)
  • kiwi fruit
  • mangos
  • apricots
  • strawberries
  • cantaloupes
  • watermelons
  • broccoli
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • cabbage
  • potatoes
  • leafy greens such as spinach, greens, and romaine lettuce

Side effects of iron and vitamin C supplements include dark stools and heartburn or other stomach irritations. Iron may also cause constipation and you may need to take a stool softener while using iron and vitamin C supplements.

Also, you should be aware that consuming too much iron is dangerous and can cause a dangerous condition called hemochromatosis or iron overload. Talk to your doctor if you experience any side effects while using iron or vitamin C supplements.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about increasing your iron intake with supplemental iron.

Sources: How is Iron Deficiency Anemia Treated; NHLBI; http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/ida/ida_treatments.html; accessed 09/11/08.
Iron Deficiency Anemia; Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000584.htm; accessed 09/28/08.

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