Anemia describes a condition in which red blood cells are less able to carry oxygen around the body. There are several different types of anemia, caused either by a deficiency of one or more nutrients such as iron, vitamin B-12 or folate (also known as folic acid) says NHS; by a genetic blood disorder called sickle cell anemia; or by an underlying malady such as kidney disease.
Tannins are naturally occurring substances found in many plant-based foods, and they are what give these foods an astringent taste. They are found in black, green and rooibos tea; coffee; grapes and wine; sorghum and corn.
Be Aware of Gluten
If left untreated, this malabsorption can lead to anemia. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and foods made from these grains. You only need to avoid gluten, though, if you have been diagnosed with celiac or have an allergy or insensitivity to the protein.
Know Your Phytates
Phytates, or phytic acid, is generally found in foods with high fiber content such as whole-grain wheat, legumes, nuts and brown rice. Refined versions of these foods such as white rice or white flour have had the bran removed and therefore contain less phytic acid. Phytates bind with iron in the digestive system, inhibiting its absorption.
According to Linus Pauling Institute, as little as 5-10 mg of phytates can inhibited iron absorption by 50 percent, but suggest that soaking foods containing phytates before cooking can help remove or degrade phytic acid.
Avoid Calcium With Iron
Calcium can interfere with iron absorption, so consuming calcium-containing foods with iron-containing foods will affect how much iron you absorb. For this reason, your diet for anemia should be modified to have calcium-containing foods at different times from sources of iron. For example, beef, beans and lentils shouldn't be eaten with milk, cheese and yogurt.
Other Inhibitors of Iron
Zinc is necessary for folate to be absorbed properly, so obtaining adequate folate in your diet is essential with folate-related anemia. Good sources include oysters, liver, meat, eggs and legumes.
Vitamin C helps convert the nonheme iron in vegetables into a usable form, so consuming foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruit juice, asparagus and bell peppers, with nonheme iron will aid absorption.
Caffeine and anemia often go hand-in-hand if you consume a lot of coffee so limit your intake to avoid restricting your iron absorption. Finally, long-term alcohol intake can inhibit folate absorption and the proper functioning of iron, so reducing or avoiding alcohol intake can improve both these types of anemia says Alcohol Health and Research World.
- WomensHealth.gov: Anemia Factsheet
- Cornell University Department of Animal Science: Tannins: Fascinating But Sometimes Dangerous Molecules
- Alcohol Health & Research World: The Hematological Complications of Alcoholism
- Oregon State University:Linus Pauling Institute: Iron
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Phytates and the Inhibitory Effect of Bran on Iron Absorption in Man
- NHS Choices: Anaemia, Vitamin B12 or Folate Deficiency - Cause
- Linus Pauling Institute: Micornutrient Information Center - Zinc
- The University of Chicago Medicine: Celiac Answer Bank