A Food Guide to Combating IDA

A Food Guide to Combating IDA

Iron deficiency anemia (IDA), the most prevalent anemia worldwide, has a significant impact on human health.1 Therefore diets should be improved by including iron-rich foods and by altering meal patterns.2

Iron-rich foods include non-vegetarian foods, like meat and organs from cattle, fish and poultry and vegetarian foods, like green leafy vegetables and legumes.3 However, it is not enough to consume iron-rich foods. There are certain dietary factors that either inhibit (calcium, cereals, tea and coffee) or enhance iron absorption (vitamin C).4,5 You may consume the necessary amount of iron but if it is eaten along with inhibitory factors, the total iron absorption will be insufficient. So, whenever you plan a meal with iron-rich foods, it is also important to know about the inhibitors and enhancers.

Recommendations of some changes to the meal pattern to optimize iron intake.3

Drink tea or coffee
Include fruit juices like orange juice or other sources of vitamin C like cassava
Milk and milk products like cheese
Foods containing inhibitors
Drink tea or coffee
one or two hours after a meal.
Include fruit juices like orange juice or other sources of vitamin C like cassava, tomatoes or carrots with the meal.
Milk and milk products like cheese should not be included within a meal but should be taken as snacks between meals.
Foods containing inhibitors should be eaten at meals with low iron content. For example, eat bread with tea or milk products. This ensures that calcium intake is not affected and iron nutrition is also maintained during other meals.

Additionally, cooking in iron-pots increases the iron content of the food.3 Sprouting legumes or fermenting foods helps better iron absorption.2

It is possible to boost iron levels by diet management. Let’s combat IDA by knowing what to eat and when to eat!

Recommended for iron supplementation for pregnant women.
If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.


1 Miller JL. Iron deficiency anemia: a common and curable disease. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2013;3(7):a011866. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a011866.

2 Iron Deficiency Anemia. Assessment, Prevention, and Control. A Guide for Programme Managers. World Health Organisation; 2001.

3 da Silva Lopes K, Takemoto Y, Garcia‐Casal MN, Ota E. Nutrition‐specific interventions for preventing and controlling anaemia throughout the life cycle: an overview of systematic reviews. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;2018(8):CD013092. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD013092.

4 Lynch SR. The effect of calcium on iron absorption. Nutr Res Rev. 2000;13(2):141-158. doi:10.1079/095442200108729043.

5 Teucher B, Olivares M, Cori H. Enhancers of iron absorption: ascorbic acid and other organic acids. Int J Vitam Nutr Res Int Zeitschrift fur Vitamin- und Ernahrungsforschung J Int Vitaminol Nutr. 2004;74(6):403-419. doi:10.1024/0300-9831.74.6.403.

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