Anemia | Prevention


Can anemia be prevented?

Some types of anemia can be prevented, such as those caused by diet. You can help prevent this type of anemia by increasing the amount of iron in your diet.

How can I increase the iron in my diet?

Eat more foods that are high in iron. Your body best absorbs iron that comes from meat. Eating a small amount of meat along with other sources of iron, such as certain vegetables, can help you get even more iron out of these foods. Taking vitamin C pills or eating foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or juice, at the same time you eat iron-rich foods or take your iron pill can also help your body absorb the iron.

Some foods prevent your body from absorbing iron, including coffee, tea, egg whites, milk, fiber and soy protein. Try to avoid these foods when you're eating food high in iron.

Foods high in iron

  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Seafood
  • Dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and raisins
  • Nuts
  • Beans, especially lima beans
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Whole grains
  • Iron-fortified foods like many breads and cereals (check the label)

How can I prevent iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy?

You can’t always prevent anemia during pregnancy, but eating foods rich in iron can help. Doctors recommend that pregnant women eat at least 27 mg of iron daily. Most doctors also recommend that pregnant women take a supplement that contains 30 mg of iron each day. (Most prenatal vitamins contain at least this amount.)

Foods with vitamin C—such as strawberries and citrus fruits—help your body absorb iron. Eat these foods with foods that are high in iron to help with absorption. For example, if you’re taking an iron pill, take it with orange juice or another food high in vitamin C. Some foods can block iron absorption. These include milk, soy protein, egg yolks, coffee and tea. Avoid these foods when eating iron-rich foods. Antacids and some other medicines that contain calcium also block iron absorption. Your doctor can tell you more about which medicines to avoid if you’re trying to boost your iron levels.

How do I prevent iron-deficiency anemia in my child?

If you use iron-fortified formula, do not give your child vitamin drops with iron. This combination provides too much iron and is not healthy. If you decide to stop breastfeeding before your infant is 12 months of age, use iron-fortified formula. Do not use low-iron formula.

After your child is 12 months old, if you stop breastfeeding or using iron-fortified formula, you should feed your toddler meat, chicken, fish, whole grains, enriched bread and cereal, dark green vegetables, and beans. Vitamin C is also important because it helps the body absorb iron. You should limit your child to less than 24 oz of cow's milk per day. (That's 3 cups of milk.) You might try giving your child yogurt and cheese. Ask your doctor if you should continue to give your child vitamins with iron.


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 01/96