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Nutrition Tips for Anemic Patients

by
author image Michele Turcotte, MS, RD
Michele Turcotte is a registered, licensed dietitian, and a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has more than 12 years of experience in clinical and corporate settings, and has extensive experience in one-on-one diet counseling and meal planning. She has written freelance food and nutrition articles for Trouve Publishing Inc. since 2004.
Nutrition Tips for Anemic Patients
Pair beef and bean tacos with vitamin C-rich tomatoes to enhance iron absorption. Photo Credit nitrub/iStock/Getty Images

Overview

Anemia is a medical condition caused by a decrease in red blood cells, affecting transport of oxygen to your body's cells and tissues. This occurs for several reasons. You may have too few red blood cells, they may be large and immature or your hemoglobin level may be too low. Hemoglobin is the protein carrier responsible for transporting oxygen. Anemia may result in weakness, pallor, extreme fatigue and a compromised immune system. To treat anemia, eat a diet rich in iron, vitamin B12 and folate.

Choose Animal Foods

Your doctor can tell you if you have iron-deficiency anemia, or pernicious anemia, which is a deficiency of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 helps activate folate or vitamin B9. If this is the case, choose iron- and vitamin B12-rich foods. Iron is available from animal and plant foods but the form in animal foods, heme iron, is better absorbed. Outside of fortified foods, vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods. In fact, beef, lamb, game meats and some seafood are rich in both nutrients. Specifically, add sardines, clams, oysters, lamb and/or beef tenderloin and venison to your diet.

Enhance Iron Absorption with C

Pairing vitamin C-rich foods or beverages with iron-rich foods enhances iron absorption -- from animal and plant sources. The most obvious pairing is orange juice or a citrus fruit with iron-fortified cereal, but there are many other options. For dinner, pair iron-rich ground beef and iron- and folate-rich starchy beans with chopped tomatoes and lettuce for tacos. Combine your favorite vegetables with strips of meat to prepare a stir-fry. If you choose pork, add chopped pineapple for a sweet 'n' sour twist. If you use beef, add chunks of vitamin C-rich bell peppers. Instead of using a traditional tenderizer or marinade, use acidic citrus juices, such as lemon and/or lime juice.

Supplement with Fortified Foods

Fortified foods, particularly ready-to-eat hot and cold breakfast cereals, help fill nutrient gaps in your diet. Fortified soy milk is one of the few vegan-friendly food sources of vitamin B12, so if being vegan is a desire, swap your current breakfast with a cereal that meets 25 percent or more of the recommended daily value for iron, folic acid -- the synthetic form of folate -- and vitamin B12. If you become bored with fortified breads and cereals, add variety by making your own breakfast smoothie with a vitamin- and mineral-fortified protein powder, such as whey protein concentrate. Use your imagination and experiment with different combinations. Blend together a scoop of protein powder, a handfull of frozen berries, a 1/2 of a banana, a spoonful of honey and a dollop of yogurt, for example.

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