Blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma.
The red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen and removing carbon dioxide (as a waste product) in the body with the help of a constituent protein -hemoglobin
Deficiency of these red blood cells in the blood OR the hemoglobin protein in the red blood cells is known as Anemia.
As a result the body doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood, causing the heart to work harder in pumping the adequate amount of blood required by the body, making you feel weak or tired.
Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches.
Treating Anemia Naturally
Some nutrient supplements can help cure anemia, deficiency of these nutrients maybe the primary cause of anemia in some cases; where there maybe a deficit in the number of red blood cells produced or a deficit in the hemoglobin content in the red blood cells.
Iron : Hemoglobin is primarily an iron-rich protein, deficiency of which can lead to production of fewer numbers of red blood cells or production of red blood cells with lower hemoglobin levels than normal.
This condition is known as Iron-deficiency anemia.
Vitamin C : Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Deficiency of which can lead to a subsequent deficiency of iron in the body, again leading to Iron-deficiency anemia.
Vitamin B12 : Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow, without vitamin B12 the red blood cells have trouble getting out of the bone marrow; do not divide normally and are too large (small size of red blood cells help them easily flow through the fine blood capillaries).
Hence there wouldn’t be enough red blood cells to carry oxygen in our body. This condition is known as Pernicious anemia.
Folic Acid ( Folate) : Another vitamin required by the bone marrow to form red blood cells, also required for their growth- deficiency of which cause abnormally large red blood cells. Folate is a type of vitamin B.
This condition is known as Folate-deficiency anemia
Riboflavin : Riboflavin deficiency leads to incomplete and improper growth of the red blood cells along with a reduced iron metabolism.
All of the above minerals and vitamins can be acquired from their food sources by adding them in your dietary plan. A regular fresh supply of these nutrients from foods can help maintain a healthy number of red blood cells in the body.
15 Foods That Help Treat/Prevent Anemia
The goal in treating anemia is to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of blood.
Low levels of iron and vitamins due to poor diet can be the cause of some types of anemia. Incorporating some foods in your diet can help prevent this.
Foods rich in nutrients and are considered especially beneficial for health and well being are known as Superfoods. Some of the super foods which are particularly beneficial in treating anemia, include-
Spinach is an excellent source of iron for those who follow a strict vegetarian diet.
According to the tables from the nutrient database of the US department of Agriculture (2009), a 180g of boiled spinach serving contains 6.43 mg of iron whereas 170g of red meat contains just 4.42 mg of iron.
However it should be noted that only a fraction of spinach is ‘available’ as a dietary source. Yet still, An American Dietetic Association states that iron-deficiency anemia is rare in individuals who follow a plant-based diet.
According to study milk given along with supplements of milk, copper and magnesium at lower dosages only took a while longer for the regeneration of hemoglobin.
Spinach also contains small amounts of folic acid which further enhances the red blood cells forming capacity in the body.
Hence it is proved that spinach gives significant effect to those suffering from anemia by helping in increasing the formation of hemoglobin.
What it means: Spinach is the most appropriate super food to fight anemia for people who follow a vegan diet, because of its high iron content and traces of folic acid, when eaten along with milk and other minerals boost the RBC forming power in blood.
Beetroot is a good source of folic acid and iron. Beetroot juice is known to improve the hemoglobin in blood .It is particularly a beneficial anemia remedy in children and teenagers.
A study conducted on 60 adolescent girls who were given beetroot juice for a period of one month, there was seen as a high significant improvement in the hemoglobin level of the adolescent girls.
3 slices of beetroot contain 1.2 mg of iron. Beetroots are known to have a cleaning action in blood with causing an increase in hemoglobin production.
What it means: Beetroots are a good source of iron and folic acid which help immensely in the increase of hemoglobin levels in blood.
3. Red Meat
Red meat is an excellent source of bioavailable (absorb-able by the body) vitamin B12. Beef and lamb meat are among the richest sources of iron.
Heme-iron is the form of iron present in animal tissues and is readily absorbable by the body as compared to non-heme iron form present in plant tissues.
Therefore Red meat is easily one of the best sources of iron for the body in curing anemia. The liver and kidney produce beneficial results in treating patients with pernicious anemia.
In fact liver feeding in cases of severe anemia is a potent factor for the sustained production of hemoglobin and red blood cells.
Though care should be taken in consuming well cooked meat, also excess consumption of red meat can lead to cardiovascular diseases, hypertension or even cancer.
Consumption at least once or twice a week is beneficial in the regeneration of red blood cells as iron content can range from 1-3 mg per 100g in the various kinds of available red meat.
Red meat hence also helps maintain the iron stores in the liver and spleen of the body.
What it means: Red meat is a rich source of iron, whose iron content is almost completely absorbed by the body.
Eating iron rich foods is of no use if the iron remains unabsorbed by the body, which can be complimented by eating foods rich in vitamin C. The vitamin C content in tomatoes is as high as 39 mg per 100g. Hence help in the effective absorption of iron by the body.
Tomatoes can be consumed in the raw form or as juice, consumed at least once a day.
It should be noted that consuming foods rich in vitamin C is of no use, if the daily dietary requirement of iron itself is not met. Vitamin C only helps effectively absorb the iron already present in the body.
What it means: Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, which effectively helps in the absorption of iron already present in the body.
An egg is known to be a meal in itself. They are rich in nutrients and are known to be a good source of iron, riboflavin, Folate and vitamin B12.
According to the USDA(United states Department of Agriculture) , per 100 grams of an egg contains 0.457 mg riboflavin, 47 microgram Folate, 0.89 microgram vitamin B12 and 1.75mg iron all of which as read before help fight against anemia.
According to a study done , school children in rural China were fed an egg a day and results were observed over a period of a month , it was concluded though only an egg isn’t the complete solution for anemia , slight raise in the hemoglobin levels were seen ; though further studies are required to be done.
In another study the nutrient benefits of quail eggs were studied. It was concluded that the eggs maybe a good potential to resolve “World Food Problem”.
The above stated nutrients help in good production of hemoglobin and proper functioning red blood cells.
What it means: Eggs are a complete meal in itself, rich in vitamins- riboflavin, Folate and B12; and a good source of iron.
Are known to contain good amounts of easily, absorbable iron. Some fish like the Plaice contain as high as 0.5mg iron per 100g. Fish are easily one of the richest direct sources of iron. They also contain vitamin B12 and Folate as micronutrients.
A study was done on the efficiency of iron-fortified fish sauce in anemic Vietnamese women and after 6 months the hemoglobin concentrations were higher and hence it was concluded that regular consumption of the iron-fortified fish sauce significantly reduced iron deficiency anemia in Vietnamese women.
The American Heart Association recommends consumption of fish at least two times a week as part of a healthy diet.
What it means: Fish are a good source of absorbable iron to the body, helps increase hemoglobin contents in the body.
For people who follow a vegetarian diet, soybean is a good alternative to red meat and fish products.
Though soybeans contain non- heme iron, it is observed via studies that vitamin C and lean meat significantly enhanced the iron absorption of a soybean flour diet.
Soy is rich in B-vitamins and it was seen in a study that the iron absorption rate (21.8%) in children given diet containing fermented soy was significantly higher than that of children who weren’t given a diet containing soy (14.2%).
Hence not only are soybeans good in regeneration of hemoglobin but also good in enhancing the iron absorption capabilities of the body.
Soybean is very versatile and can be consumed in a varied number of forms – as soy milk, soy nuts, soy flour, tofu, soy protein or so beans itself. Soy milk is an excellent source of vitamin B12 too, which helps against pernicious anemia.
What it means: Soybean is a good substitute of iron for people following a vegan diet, with good contents of B-vitamins.
Pomegranate is a rich source of vitamin C and small amounts of iron and Folate Hence Consumption of pomegranate helps in the iron absorption process.
Pomegranate may not be high in iron content, with other foods contain better amounts of iron but the vitamin C enhances iron absorption abilities and a 150g glass of pomegranate juice per day would be helpful in achieving a balance diet.
Pomegranate can be consumed as it is, in the form of a fruit (after removal of the peel) or by extracting the juice from the fruit. Though there will be a higher consumption of fiber, while consuming the fruit as it is.
What it means: Vitamin C content of pomegranate helps in the absorption of iron present in the body.
9. Dried Fruits
The nutrient contents in dried fruits are usually concentrated through the drying process. Hence the iron content in dried fruits is usually increased as compared to the iron content of the fresh fruit.
Prunes, raisins, dates, figs and dried apricots all have good amounts of iron in them. Dates are also a good source of vitamin C helping in iron absorption.
What it means: Dried fruits are tasty to eat and help provide a concentrated amount of the nutrients its fruit in the hydrated form would provide.
Nuts include hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, and pistachios etc. which greatly help boosting iron levels in the body
A table elaborating the iron content in many nuts is illustrated below.
Though not any form of honey, dark unprocessed honey contains iron, manganese and copper; all of the elements combined boost hemoglobin synthesis. Too much processing of honey makes it loose its minerals therefore, honey – darker the better.
In a study it was demonstrated, rat receiving milk with dark honey supplements maintained their initial levels of hemoglobin, while these levels dropped in case of light honey or sucrose supplements.
Hence it can be concluded that honey can be best used as a preventive cure of nutritional anemia.
What it means: Dark honey is a good source of minerals like iron, manganese and cooper, together which help in hemoglobin synthesis.
A newly born child completely depends upon the nutrients of his mother’s milk.
Milk is a rich source of vitamin B12 containing about 1.2 micrograms per serving. Therefore helps in curing/prevent pernicious anemia. Milk is excellent if used as a daily supplement along with any of the other given foods.
Milk is a very versatile food, can be consumed as shakes with fruits , or simply heated and supplemented with natural sweeteners such as honey , can be made into ice creams, can be added to main course foods , many of the recopies can be easily found online.
What it means: Milk is the precursor of nutrients in human life, being a rich source of vitamin B12.
Oats, although being high in iron, absorption of iron maybe inhibited due to the presence of phytic acids.
This can be prevented by consuming oatmeal fortified with iron; such fortified oats are usually high in vitamin B12 and other B-vitamins, therefore helping in fighting against anemia.
Oats can be complemented with milk and consumed, added in cakes, baked as cookies and many other diverse manners catering to specific tastes.
What it means: Eating Fortified Oats provide with high iron content along with good quantities vitamin B12 and other B-vitamins.
Apples are known to help aid in increasing iron levels in the body. Apples have a high Vitamin C content, 4.6mg per 100 g which helps to absorb the non heme-iron in the body.
Also provides small amounts of iron to the body (0.12mg per 100 g).
Apples are very rich in fiber, can be consumed as is along with the peel which is richest part of fiber source in the apple.
Apples can be cooked along with a variety of baked products such as cakes, cookies, tarts, pies. Made into sauces and pickles, or be consumed in the form of juice.
What it means: Apples have high vitamin C content, which aids absorption of non heme-iron in the body.
15. Peanut Butter
We are already aware of the iron content of nuts, which help fight against anemia.
Peanut Butter is hence a good source of iron, contains about 1.9 mg of iron per 100g , it is a good source of iron that can be incorporated in one’s daily diet. Consumption of peanut butter can also be substituted with roasted peanuts.
Peanut Butter is also consumed in good amounts by people trying to gain weight in a healthy way; it can be eaten in spoonfuls or by spreading on bread along with some veggies.
Peanut Butter or roasted peanuts are a good and sumptuous source of iron.
After reviewing all of the above Superfoods, one can draw a conclusion that the key to treating or preventing anemia is not one particular food but a balance of several nutrient rich foods.
Having a balanced diets helps foods to complement each other if one food item is rich in iron another food item consumed may help absorb that iron due to its rich Vitamin C content.
Therefore emphasis of a balance diet should be put for children and teenagers who are at their growing stages.
In many cases anemia is caused not due to a particular deficiency in a mineral or vitamin but due to an overall case of malnutrition; this problem is prevalent in rural places all over the world, especially common among children and teenagers. Therefore our fight against anemia should be seen as a fight against malnutrition.