What Should I Avoid in the Anemia Diet?

While most people diagnosed with anemia are aware of many foods that can bring their iron levels back up to normal, it’s less well-known that some foods actually interfere with iron absorption. If you eat these foods alongside iron-boosting foods, you may end up doing yourself little good. If you have a history of anemia, knowing about these foods can help you prevent or lessen your bouts of it.

Do you need to give these foods up? Not necessarily, and certainly not entirely. What you need to do is: avoid having these foods in your stomach while you’re also digesting iron-rich foods or iron supplements. For example: don’t drink red wine within an hour to either side of the steak dinner you’re eating in hopes of boosting your iron levels.

Additionally, you can counteract the iron-blocking effects of these foods by having some Vitamin C along with them. These are the Vitamin C chewable tablets I take. The taste and texture is better than most of the other brands I’ve tried – kind of a tart berry, and they don’t make you feel like dust is flying around in your mouth after you bite into them.

Spinach. You’ve probably heard that spinach is rich in iron and therefore great for anemia. It is rich in iron, but it’s never helped me with anemia at all. Turns out it has something called oxalic acid which binds with the iron and keeps your body from using it. Try broccoli, kale and other dark leafy greens instead.

Red wine. The reservatrol that helps fight heart disease and cancer seems to inhibit iron absorption. But white wine seems to help with iron absorption, so that’s an option.

Coffee. Coffee can also keep you from absorbing iron into your system. Avoid it within an hour either way of an iron supplement or iron rich meal.

Black and green teas chelate with iron from plant sources, making it indigestible. Iron supplements are typically from plant sources. Tea doesn’t have this effect with meat iron {PDF link} sources, however. And in populations that drink a lot of tea, there’s no more anemia than in other populations, so there’s definitely still some research to be done in this area.

Soy proteins. While one might argue that soy is rich in iron, non-fermented soy is also rich in phytic acid, which interferes with absorption of iron and other nutrients. Interestingly, fermented soy products (like soy sauce) can increase your ability to absorb iron. (Some sources actually recommend tofu for combating anemia because the phylic acid doesn’t completely block iron absorption, so you still get some iron from the soy. If you think tofu is your best available source for iron, be sure to eat it with plenty of vitamin C for best effect.)

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.