From pale to pink ……Diet for “Nutritional Anemia”

Anemia is medical condition in which you suffer reduced ability to carry oxygen in your blood.

It could be due to low production of Red blood cells or low hemoglobin (protein in the body which carries oxygen) or decreased volume of red blood cells (Blood loss).

Amongst various causes of anemia nutritional deficiency is the commonest cause of Anemia.

“Nutritional Anemia” is a condition in which the hemoglobin or red blood cell content of the blood is lower than normal due to a deficiency of either a single or several essential nutrients regardless of cause of its deficiency.

Which are the  nutrients  needed for red cells production?

  • Proteins- Red cells and hemoglobin are made from proteins hence are important. Hence adequate proteins are required for building these two.
  • Iron-Hemoglobin is full of irons and with help of iron it carries oxygen.
  • Vitamins
    • Vitamin B12 and folic acid is essential for production of new cells.
    • Vitamin C- It facilitate the absorption of iron from the gut and it is also involved in normal metabolism of vitamin B12 and folic acid.
    • Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine-Important for hemoglobin production.
    • Vitamin E- Essential for stability of red cell outer layer
    • Vitamin A- Affects hemoglobin levels because it is involved in iron metabolism deficiency restricts iron use by hemoglobin.
  • Copper and Zinc- Both copper and zinc are essential nutrients and deficiencies of both result in anemia.

Causes of Deficiency

Amongst all nutritional anemia Iron deficiency anemia, Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia and malnutrition related anemia are very common.

  • Poor diet
  • Poor absorption of these nutrients by body
  • Loss of Blood
  • Lead poisoning in children
  • Increased Demand  but normal production as in pregnancy, growing children

Diet to improve haemoglobin and Red cells level

Treatment of Anemia depends upon the type,cause and severity of anemia but diet is essential element of the plan.

Deficiency of one or more of the above can lead to Anemia. hence it is important to include above nutrients in the diet.

Diet also varies with type of anemia you are suffering, your physical condition but in general guidelines are given for  prevent and treat anemia.

  1. Proteins –Include adequate proteins in the body

Plant sources

  • legumes: dried beans,peas,lentils are legumes
  • Soy based proteins it is a complete protein and it is comparable to animal source of protein.
  • Nuts and seeds Nuts and seeds are very good sources of proteins e.g. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts etc.
  • Spinach

So combination of these in daily diet will improve quality of protein intake.

Animal Sources

  • Dairy –Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Cottage cheese (Paneer).
  • Eggs, Seafood, Meat.

 Include iron rich food in the diet

  • Plant sources are called “non heme iron “and are not easily absorbed by the body but if taken with vitamin C their iron is absorbed by the body. Sources are Green Leafy vegetables, dried beans, dark colored fruits, beet, dates, grapes, raisins etc.
  • Animal sources are called “heme Iron” our body easily absorbs this type of iron. Sources are meat, fish, and egg yolk.
  1. Vitamin C –when taken along with the meal facilitates absorption of iron and it is also involved in the metabolism of vitamin B12.

Sources are

  • Fruits- citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, Amla (Indian gooseberry), orange, sweet lime, pineapple, papaya, guava etc.
  • Vegetables-Green leafy vegetables, pepper, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, raddish, tomatoes etc.
  • Sprouts
  1. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is generally not available in plant source but nowadays breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B12. Vegans must be especially careful to get adequate amounts on a regular basis, preferably daily.

Animal sources are

  • milk ,yogurt, cheese
  • Eggs ,fish ,meat
  1. Folic Acid-Dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach and dried legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils are naturally good sources of folic acid.

6.Vitamin E

Vitamin E generally found in food that contain fat margarine, vegetable oil, wheat germ oil, olive oil, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds

Also other sources of vitamin E are dark green leafy vegetables, avocado, pumpkin, broccoli, fish etc.

  1. Vitamin A 

sources are

  • Animal sources-Liver and fish oils other sources are milk, eggs
  • Plant sources are

Leafy green vegetables

Orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato etc.

Orange and yellow fruits like papaya, mango, apricot, peaches.


  • Supplementary and fortified foods may be a help in controlling or preventing anemia.
  • Vitamin C which promotes Iron absorption hence if you squeeze lemon on food will not be only make food palatable but also make iron absorption better. You can take a glass of orange juice along with the meal.
  • Vitamin C is water soluble hence if you warm meals for long time decreases their vitamin C content and hence iron absorption
  • Germination and baking increases iron absorption.
  • Avoid drinking tea and coffee with meal or immediate after meals as tea and coffee form insoluble iron tannate that is not absorbed.
  • Coconut milk, if used extensively in cooking inhibits iron absorption.
  • When food is cooked in iron utensils, some iron is added from the utensils.

Looking at the diet required to prevent and treat anemia we can conclude that it is not one type of food which can treat anemia but variety of food has to be included in the diet.

In short “Diet balancing body needs is key to health!”


Your tiredness may be due to Anemia!!

Are you feeling tired with normal activities? and if it does not go away with the sufficient night rest then be alert and take action as you may be suffering from Anemia!

It’s a very common medical condition and can be easily treated.

It affects all ages, races ethnic groups. Both men and women suffer anemia but women and children are more vulnerable.

What is Anemia?

Anemia is medical condition in which you suffer reduced ability to carry oxygen in your blood. Which could be due to low Red blood cells or due to low hemoglobin.

Red blood cells carry a special protein called hemoglobin on them.Haemoglobin uses iron to carry oxygen. These red cells deliver oxygen from lungs to rest of the body. Oxygen is necessary for the body to make energy and carry out all its functions.

So when one suffers from anemia his or her ability to carry oxygen to rest of the body is diminished and hence there is low energy and reduced ability of body’s performing necessary functions as a result you feel tired and develop other symptoms.

Types of anemia

There are many causes of anemia common causes are

1.Due to reduced or defective red cells production.

Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow ( spongy tissue inside  the bones in the body)

To make healthy hemoglobin and red blood cells our body needs Iron, vitamin B12, folic acid(one of the vitamin B) small amounts of other vitamins and minerals, and proteins. We get these nutrients from food.

Also one chemical called erythropoietin (produced in kidneys) is required to boost production of red blood cells.

Conditions causing reduced or defective red cells production

  • Poor nutrition
  • Worms
  • Certain drugs
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Cancer and treatment of cancer
  • Increased demand in Pregnancy
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Certain inherited disorder

2.Due to destruction of red blood cells Sometimes red blood cells are destroyed before their normal life span in large numbers but body cannot make up for enough supply.

Conditions causing destruction of red blood cells

  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia, where the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies its own red blood cells as a foreign substance and attacks them.
  • Certain inherited illnesses.
  • Infections (e.g. Malaria, Dengue, HIV)
  • Liver diseases
  • Spleen diseases
  • Certain drugs
  • Vascular grafts, prosthetic heart valves, tumors, severe burns, exposure to certain chemicals, severe hypertension, and clotting disorders

3.Due to blood loss.

When one loses blood one loses large amount of Red cells.

Causes of blood loss are

  • Heavy bleeding in periods.
  • Injuries
  • Gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, gastritis(inflammation of the stomach), and cancer.
  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirinor ibuprofen, which can cause ulcers and gastritis
  • Childbirth

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of anemia develop as body has to work hard to adjust with low oxygen. Anemia can be mild, moderate or severe. It can also be temporary or a longer-lasting problem. Sometimes symptoms of mild anemia can be unnoticed but as anemia worsens symptoms can worsen.

Symptoms include

  • Fatigue-tiredness after shorter and shorter periods of exertion
  • Shortness of breath while climbing staircase or lifting something or during normal activity
  • Feeling faint or dizziness, light headedness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Confusion ,lack of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Numbness, feeling cold in hand and feet
  • Heavy periods or irregular periods
  • Strange craving food
  • Headaches
  • Hair loss ,dry brittle hair
  • Black Stools –if there is bleeding in digestive system
  • Chest pain ,chronic body pain
  • Pale skin and eyes
  • Shiny tongue
  • Discoloration of nails
  • Loss of sleep

With severe or long-lasting anemia, the lack of oxygen in the blood can damage the heart, brain, and other organs of the body. Very severe anemia can even cause death.

Diagnosis of Anemia

You may come to know about anemia in various ways either on routine investigation or on testing for another conditions and or when your doctor advises tests for symptoms you have developed.

Doctors may take various steps to find out anemia, its severity and cause and to monitor treatment.

Steps includ


  • Proper history about your sign and symptoms with respect to duration and its progress
  • Your personal history includes your occupation, dietary habits or drug addiction etc.
  • Your past history and family history of any illness occurred
  • Your menstrual history and pregnancy history etc.

2.Physical examination

This is done to confirm which organ or body system is involved. Your doctor may check the color of your skin, gums, and nail beds and look for signs of bleeding or infection. He or she may listen to your heart for a rapid or irregular heartbeat and your lungs for rapid or uneven breathing. Your doctor also may feel your abdomen for an enlarged liver or spleen, check for bone pain, or conduct a pelvic or rectal exam to check for internal bleeding

3.Test and procedures

Commonly done test for diagnosing Anemia

  • CBC-Complete Blood Count –It is broad scale test provides count of all cells in the blood. It also gives reading about level of hemoglobin and other valuable information which decides if you have anemia and what is its type.

Depending upon test results of CBC your doctor may ask for further tests, like

Blood test –Serum Iron, Total iron banding capacity transferrin saturation, serum ferritin, comb’s test,G6PD etc.

Bone marrow study –Gives information about the marrow’s ability to make enough healthy blood cells.

Treatment of Anemia

Anemia can be mild ,moderate and severe.Depending upon cause and severity treatment is given by the doctor.You can even prevent some types with a healthy diet. Other types can be treated with dietary supplements.

However, certain types of anemia can be severe, long lasting, and even life threatening if not diagnosed and treated.

If you have signs or symptoms of anemia, see your doctor to find out whether you have the condition. Treatment will depend on the cause of the anemia and how severe it is.

Medicines –Your doctor may give you medicine to treat underlying condition causing anemia.

Dietary changes food to improve your red cell and hemoglobin count if anemia is due to nutritional reason.

Supplements –Doctor may need to give you Iron, vitamin B12, folic acid supplement if your diet is poor.

Supplements can be given orally or intravenous (directly in the vein) or intramuscular (directly in the muscle) depending upon severity.

Blood transfusion

Bone marrow transplantreplaces your faulty stem cells with healthy ones from another person (a donor). Stem cells are made in the bone marrow. They develop into red and white blood cells and platelets

Surgery-Surgery may needed for underlying causing blood loss such as uterine fibroid, hemorrhoids, ulcer, cancer etc.