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!”