Anemia is a condition that occurs when your blood doesn’t produce enough high-quality red blood cells.
More often than not, it’s caused by low iron levels – a nutrient that’s crucial for the prevention of anemia.
Because of that, it’s important to consume plenty of iron-rich foods to avoid this condition and stay healthy.
Unfortunately, some foods actually prevent the absorption of iron, decreasing the amount of iron your body gets from the foods you eat.
As a result, it’s a good idea to avoid consuming too many foods and beverages that inhibit the absorption of iron.
If you’re healthy, consuming some foods containing compounds and substances that prevent the absorption of iron shouldn’t cause too many issues. But if you already suffer from anemia, it might be best to avoid eating them, especially at the same time as iron-rich foods.
Luckily, it’s not too difficult to limit your consumption of foods that inhibit the absorption of iron. All you have to do is take note of which foods you should avoid and stick to mostly iron-rich foods as often as possible.
How can certain foods contribute to anemia?
Some foods might contain substances, nutrients, and compounds that interfere with or even prevent the absorption of iron.
So, when you consume such foods, your body doesn’t absorb iron efficiently, leading to an increased risk of iron deficiency and anemia.
The most common substances and compounds that interfere with the absorption of iron include:
- Phytic acid
- Plant proteins
- Certain medications
So, it might be beneficial to avoid consuming these foods in large quantities and along with iron-rich foods.
With that being said, these foods are still OK to consume if you suffer from anemia. But try not to eat them during the same meal as iron-rich foods. That way, your body will absorb iron more efficiently.
What foods should you consume to avoid anemia?
The best way to avoid or treat the symptoms of anemia is to consume plenty of iron-rich foods, especially the ones containing animal protein. This is because animal protein contains heme iron, which is much easier for your body to absorb.
On the other hand, plant-based foods contain non-heme iron, which is harder for your body to absorb, requiring you to consume much more iron-rich foods.
The best food choices for anemia prevention include:
- Seafood like oysters, shrimp, and mussels
- Organ meats
If your anemia is quite severe, your doctor might recommend taking iron supplements to combat the negative symptoms associated with this condition.
It’s also important to consume food rich in vitamin C, folate, zinc, and copper. These nutrients help your body absorb iron and prevent anemia. They also contribute to the health of your cardiovascular system and help your body create red blood cells.
So, make sure to include them in your diet.
15 Foods and Drinks You Should Avoid If You Suffer from Anemia
The following foods should be limited by people who suffer from iron deficiency and anemia. Still, they contain lots of important nutrients, so it’s not necessary to remove them from your diet completely.
Instead, strive to avoid consuming them along with iron-rich foods to prevent any issues with iron absorption.
If you’re healthy, coffee has no effect on iron absorption. But for those suffering from iron deficiency and anemia, it might be best to skip your morning cup of coffee or replace it with a decaffeinated version.
This is because coffee contains caffeine and other substances that negatively affect your body’s ability to absorb iron. So, if you suffer from anemia or are at a higher risk of this condition, limiting your intake of coffee is a very good idea.
Just like coffee, tea contains a form of caffeine called theine. Because of that, drinking a lot of tea interferes with iron absorption, increasing your risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Small quantities should be OK even if you suffer from anemia, but make sure not to overdo it. This is especially important if you drink black or green tea, as they contain high levels of theine.
What’s more, tea is rich in polyphenols. While these are important substances, consuming foods and beverages rich in them too often can stop your body from absorbing iron.
So, be sure not to drink too much tea at the same time as consuming iron-rich foods.
Instead, try drinking decaffeinated tea or completely avoid this beverage.
Eggs have a complicated relationship with anemia.
They contain a good amount of iron, which means that they should help you keep your iron levels up. Well, that’s only true in theory.
Eggs contain a protein compound called phosvitin, which binds to iron and prevents your body from absorbing it from the foods you consume. In fact, studies show that eating just one boiled egg can reduce your absorption of iron by as much as 28%.
If you’re healthy, though, consuming eggs from time to time shouldn’t have a negative impact on your iron levels.
But if you’re prone to iron deficiency, it’s best to avoid consuming eggs at the same time as iron-rich foods.
4. Milk and calcium-rich foods
Small quantities of milk and other calcium-rich products don’t negatively impact your intake of iron.
But eating too many of them too often can prevent your body from absorbing iron as efficiently as it would have otherwise.
This is usually a problem for people who consume excessive amounts of calcium-rich dairy products as well as calcium supplements, which have been shown to greatly decrease the absorption of iron.
So, be sure to avoid consuming too much calcium if you suffer from anemia.
5. Gluten-rich foods
Gluten can inhibit the absorption of iron, reducing the amount of this mineral that your body gets from the food you eat.
What’s more, people with gluten sensitivity are more prone to iron deficiency since their digestive system is already less capable of absorbing nutrients, including iron.
The same applies to people with celiac disease and other digestive system conditions that influence your body’s ability to absorb iron and other nutrients.
So, be sure to avoid gluten-containing foods if you suffer from iron deficiency or anemia.
6. Grapes and wine
Studies show that the polyphenols found in red and purple grapes negatively impact your body’s ability to absorb iron.
This increases your risk of iron deficiency and anemia by reducing the number and quality of red blood cells in your body.
The same goes for red wine, which is made from this type of grapes. So, it’s best to limit your intake of this fruit and red wine as much as possible to avoid iron deficiency and other issues.
If you love grapes and wine, it might be best to stick to white grapes and white wine instead. They contain fewer polyphenols, making them safer choices for people with iron deficiency and anemia.
7. Brown rice
While it’s incredibly healthy and nutritious, brown rice contains phytates, also known as phytic acid.
This compound binds with iron in your digestive tract before it’s absorbed, increasing your risk of iron deficiency.
As a result, anemic individuals and those prone to iron deficiency and anemia should avoid foods containing phytic acid.
Other healthy persons should be perfectly fine with including brown rice in their diets as long as they consume plenty of iron-rich foods.
8. Foods containing oxalates
Oxalates impair how well your body absorbs iron, especially non-heme iron. Healthy individuals don’t have to worry about foods containing oxalates, but those with anemia should be wary of foods containing high levels of this compound.
Oxalates are found in foods like spinach, kale, beets, nuts, wheat bran, strawberries, and some herbs.
So, people with anemia and iron deficiency should avoid consuming these foods or at least limit their quantity.
For healthy people, corn is an excellent source of iron as well as nutrients that improve the absorption of this mineral, such as folate and vitamin B12.
But if you suffer from anemia, certain compounds in corn can negatively impact your body’s ability to absorb iron.
Aside from these compounds, corn is very low in iron itself. So, eating it doesn’t increase your iron levels or reduce your risk of iron deficiency and anemia.
As a result, it might be best to limit your intake of corn if you’re prone to anemia triggered by low iron levels.
10. Whole-grain wheat products
Whole grains contain large quantities of phytic acid, which binds to iron, preventing the absorption of this mineral. As a result, people with anemia and iron deficiency should avoid consuming whole grains.
If you can’t live without consuming whole grains, try starting off slowly to check how your body’s reacting.
Some people with anemia might be able to eat whole grains in small quantities as long as they don’t eat them at the same time as iron-rich foods.
Chocolate is another food that has a complicated relationship with anemia and iron absorption.
On the one hand, it contains various essential nutrients that improve how well your body absorbs this mineral, but on the other, it contains polyphenols.
These plant compounds negatively impact the absorption of iron. While they’re good for your overall health, consuming too many of them at once can prevent your body from absorbing enough iron.
As a result, it’s important to avoid consuming these foods about one to two hours before and after iron-rich meals to avoid problems with iron absorption.
Leafy greens like parsley can help healthy individuals get more iron into their diets. Parsley also contains nutrients that improve how well your body absorbs this nutrient.
On the other hand, people with anemia and iron deficiency should avoid consuming large quantities of parsley due to certain compounds it contains.
While this herb is safe in moderation, it’s best not to consume it too often if you’re at a higher risk of iron deficiency and similar problems.
Generally, peanuts are excellent at helping you load up on important nutrients, such as iron, folate, and copper.
However, this type of nut also contains two types of substances that inhibit the absorption of iron – phytates and polyphenols.
While these nutrients are safe in small quantities, they can prevent your body from absorbing iron if you suffer from anemia and iron deficiency.
So, be sure to keep that in mind when eating peanuts.
14. Soy protein
If you’re at a higher risk of developing an iron deficiency or anemia or if you already suffer from any of these conditions, it’s best to avoid consuming non-heme iron found in soy protein.
This is because soy protein contains phytic acid, which prevents iron absorption and increases your risk of iron deficiency and anemia.
So, anemic individuals and those prone to iron deficiency should stay clear from soy protein and various other soy-based products.
15. High-fiber foods
While high-fiber foods are very important for good health, consuming them too often can increase your risk of iron deficiency and anemia caused by not enough iron.
This is because getting more iron than your body requires makes the iron you’re intaking from foods unabsorbable. So, in turn, you’re putting yourself at a higher risk of other cardiovascular issues as well.
As a result, be sure not to consume too many high-fiber foods, especially if you suffer from anemia.
Dealing with anemia can be challenging. So it’s important to keep your diet in check to avoid any unnecessary issues on top of the ones you’re already experiencing.
Fortunately, it’s quite easy to limit your consumption of foods containing substances and compounds that stop your body from absorbing as much iron as possible – you just have to keep in mind the foods that you should avoid.
So, hopefully, this list will help you stay healthy and avoid anemia and iron deficiency.