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Iron Deficiency Anemia

August 10, 2016 ,

Anemia is a condition where the body does not produce enough red blood cells. It is commonly associated with low iron levels in the blood, but other nutrients can be linked with this condition: folic acid and vitamin B12. Here is a description of iron deficiency anemia.

Iron is an important mineral for health. Indeed, the body needs iron to produce hemoglobin. The latter is essential for the transport of oxygen in the blood. If you suffer from an iron deficiency, you may suffer from fatigue, pale skin and irritability. There are several possible causes, such as:

  • Inadequate food intake
  • Reduced iron bioavailability
  • Low absorption because of a medical condition
  • Significant blood-loss


Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Iron (mg / day)

Males Females
Children 1-3 y 7 mg 7 mg
Children 4-8 y 10 mg 10 mg
Children 9-13 y 8 mg 8 mg
Teenagers 14-18 y 11 mg 15 mg
Adults 19-50 y 8 mg 18 mg
Adults > 51 y 8 mg 8 mg
27 mg
9-10 mg

Nutritional Strategies

In addition to increasing your consumption of iron, it’s important to differentiate the two types found in food, because how much you absorb will greatly depend on the food consumed. Heme iron is found only in meat, poultry and fish. It is better absorbed than non-heme iron. Eggs and certain plant-based foods contain only non-heme iron. To help the absorption of non-heme iron, you can add meat, chicken or fish to a meal. Adding foods rich in vitamin C can also help absorb non-heme iron. It’s to be noted that a person’s iron reserves can influence their level of absorption, which is why, in cases of deficiency, an iron supplement is usually necessary.


Tea and coffee contain tannins that impede iron absorption. It’s important to avoid consuming them during meals. Other substances found in foods can also impede iron absorption, calcium is one. However, it isn’t advised to avoid eating it with meals, because calcium is essential to the body. If you have to take a calcium supplement, take it before bedtime and outside meal times.

Practical Tips

  • Include, if possible, meat, poultry or fish to your meals to help the absorption of non-heme iron.
  • Add a source of vitamin C to your meals to optimize the absorption of iron from meat-free meals. Citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, cantaloupe melons, mangos, potatoes and tomatoes are good sources of vitamin C.
  • Avoid drinking tea or coffee during meals. Wait one to two hours before or after meals to drink tea or coffee.

Dietary Sources of Iron

Foods that contain a combination of heme and non-heme iron

Food Iron (mg) per Food Guide Serving
(75 g, cooked)
Beef 1,5-3 mg
Shrimp 2 mg
Sardines 2 mg
Lamb 1,5-1,8 mg
Chicken 1 mg
Pork 0,5-1 mg
Fish (such as salmon, trout, halibut, haddock, perch) 0,5-1 mg
Wild duck 7,5 mg
Heart , kidney 4-9 mg
Oysters, mussels 5-7 mg
Blood pudding 5 mg
Moose 4 mg

Foods that contain only non-heme iron

Food Food Guide Serving Iron (mg)
Pumpkin seed kernels 60 mL 8.5 mg
Tofu, medium or firm 150 g 2-7 mg
Legumes (such as beans, lentils, chickpeas) 175 mL 2-6.5 mg
Instant hot cereal (enriched with iron) 175 mL 3-6 mg
Cold cereals (enriched with iron) 30 g 4 mg
Some vegetables (such as pumpkin, artichoke hearts, peas, potatoes, spinach) 125 mL 1-2 mg
Nuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds 60 mL 0.5-2 mg
Eggs 2 1.8 mg
Pasta (enriched with iron) 125 mL 1-1.5 mg
Prune juice 125 mL 1.5 mg
Peanut butter and nut butters, such as almond butter 30 mL 0.5-1.5 mg
Bread (enriched with iron) 1 slice 1 mg


Here are 3 high iron recipes :

Spaghetti with Clams and Tomatoes

Spaghetti with Clams and Tomatoes



Marie-Maxime Bergeron
Changing eating habits gradually and adapting to the needs of my clients is the cornerstone of my approach. Eating well for fun and for health is the goal and everything begins with a return to simplicity in our habits. I am a nutritionist and have offered counselling in nutrition for 10 years.

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