Nutrients That Prevent or Treat Anemia

Iron is the key nutrient that influences the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. More hemoglobin provides better oxygen delivery throughout the body. However, not all iron is created equal. The body absorbs iron from animal sources and from plant sources differently.

Heme iron comes from animal sources, and is more readily absorbed by the body. Nonheme iron comes from plant-based sources. Assistance from other nutrients is necessary for nonheme iron to be absorbed and for anemic conditions to improve.

You can increase the absorption of nonheme iron by also consuming vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. Eating a heme iron source such as a meat with a nonheme iron source such as beans or dark greens also increases absorption.

While there are nutrients and foods that can help iron absorption, there are also some that reduce it — for example, the overconsumption of polyphenols from tea and coffee, phytates and oxalates from whole grains and dark greens or supplements, and excess calcium. These substances bind to iron and can prevent absorption.

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