Anemia Diet

based on NIH guidelines. Iron, folate and vitamin B12 content of 8,000 foods

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Food NameFolateVit. B-12Iron
Butter, salted30.170.02
Butter, whipped, with salt30.130.16
Butter oil, anhydrous00.010.00
Cheese, blue361.220.31
Cheese, brick201.260.43
Cheese, brie651.650.50
Cheese, camembert621.300.33
Cheese, caraway180.270.64
Cheese, cheddar180.830.68
Cheese, cheshire180.830.21
Cheese, colby180.830.76
Cheese, cottage, creamed, large or small curd120.430.07
Cheese, cottage, creamed, with fruit110.530.16
Cheese, cottage, nonfat, uncreamed, dry, large or small curd90.460.15

Nutrient Values

  • Nutrient values are calculated per 100g of food weight.
  • Iron contents are in milligrams.
  • Folate and vitamin B-12 contents are in micrograms.

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Information below is from the National Institutes of Health

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Iron is an important building block for red blood cells.

When your body does not have enough iron, it will make fewer red blood cells or red blood cells that are too small. This is called iron deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia.

Red blood cells bring oxygen to the body's tissues. Healthy red blood cells are made in your bone marrow. Red blood cells move through your body for 3 to 4 months. Parts of your body then remove old blood cells.

Iron is a key part of red blood cells. Without iron, the blood cannot carry oxygen effectively. Your body normally gets iron through your diet and by re-using iron from old red blood cells.

You get iron deficiency anemia when your body's iron stores run low. You can get iron deficiency if:

  • You lose more blood cells and iron than your body can replace
  • Your body does not do a good job of absorbing iron
  • Your body is able to absorb iron, but you are not eating enough foods with iron in them
  • Your body needs more iron than normal (such as if you are pregnant or breastfeeding)
Iron loss can be due to bleeding. Common causes of bleeding are:
  • Heavy, long, or frequent menstrual periods
  • Cancer in the esophagus, stomach, or colon
  • Esophageal varices
  • The use of aspirin, ibuprofen, or arthritis medicines for a long time, which can cause gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Peptic ulcer disease
The body may not absorb enough iron in the diet due to:
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn's disease
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Taking too many antacids that contain calcium
You may not get enough iron in the diet if:
  • You are a strict vegetarian
  • You are an older adult and do not eat a full diet

Treatment of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Taking iron supplementsand eating iron-rich foods are important parts of treating iron deficiency anemia. However, you and your health care provider must first search for the cause of your anemia.

Iron supplements (most often ferrous sulfate) are needed to build up the iron stores in your body. Most of the time, your doctor or nurse will measure your iron levels before starting supplements.

Patients who cannot take iron by mouth can take it through a vein (intravenous) or by an injection into the muscle.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women will need to take extra iron because their normal diet usually will not provide the amount they need.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia

Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia is a low red blood cell count due to a lack of vitamin B12. Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues.

Your body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells. In order to provide vitamin B12 to your cells:

  • You must eat plenty of foods that contain vitamin B12, such as meat, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products.
  • Your body must absorb enough vitamin B12. A special protein, called intrinsic factor, helps your body do this. This protein is released by cells in the stomach.

A lack of vitamin B12 may be due to dietary factors, including:

  • Eating a vegetarian diet
  • Poor diet in infants
  • Poor nutrition during pregnancy

Certain health conditions can make it difficult for your body to absorb enough vitamin B12. They include:

  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Crohn's disease, celiac disease, infection with the fish tapeworm, or other problems that make it difficult for your body to digest foods
  • Pernicious anemia, a type of vitamin B12 anemia that occurs when your body destroys cells that make intrinsic factor
  • Surgeries that remove certain parts of your stomach or small intestine, such as some weight-loss surgeries
  • Taking antacids and other heartburn medicines for a long period of time

Treatment of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Anemia

The goal of treatment is to increase your vitamin B12 levels.

Treatment may include a shot of vitamin B12 once a month. Persons with severely low levels of B12 may need more shots in the beginning. You may need shots every month for the rest of your life.

Some patients may also need to take vitamin B12 supplements by mouth. For some people, high-dose vitamin B12 tablets taken by mouth work well, and shots are not needed.

Long-term vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage. This may be permanent if you do not start treatment within 6 months of when your symptoms begin.

Folate Deficiency Anemia

Folate-deficiency anemia is a decrease in red blood cells (anemia) due to a lack of folate. Folate is a type of B vitamin. It is also called folic acid.

Folate (folic acid) is needed for red blood cells to form and grow. You can get folate by eating green leafy vegetables and liver. However, your body does not store folate in large amounts. So, you need to eat plenty of folate-rich foods to maintain normal levels of this vitamin.

In folate-deficiency anemia, the red blood cells are abnormally large. Such cells are called megalocytes. They are also called megaloblasts. They are seen in the bone marrow. This is why this anemia is also called megaloblastic anemia.

Causes of this type of anemia include:

  • Too little folic acid in your diet
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Long-term alcoholism
  • Use of certain medications (such as phenytoin [Dilantin], methotrexate, sulfasalazine, triamterene, pyrimethamine, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and barbiturates)

The following raise your risk for this type of anemia:

  • Alcoholism
  • Eating overcooked food
  • Poor diet (often seen in the poor, the elderly, and people who do not eat fresh fruits or vegetables)
  • Pregnancy

Folic acid is needed to help a baby in the womb grow properly. Too little folic acid during pregnancy may lead to birth defects in a baby.

Treatment of Folate-Deficiency Anemia

The goal is to identify and treat the cause of the folate deficiency.

You may receive folic acid supplements, taken by mouth or given through a vein. If you have low folate levels because of a problem with your intestines, you make need treatment for the rest of your life.

Diet changes can help boost your folate level. Eat more green, leafy vegetables and citrus fruits.

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