5 foods to avoid if you have anemia

Anemia is not a very dangerous condition for most people, and it’s very common. But the symptoms can include serious fatigue, inability to concentrate, depression and a feeling that you just can’t handle any of your normal activities. In some really mild cases (for example, many women who just get anemic around their periods), doctors advise patients to simply eat some beef or other iron-rich foods whenever they feel anemic (beef is rich in iron and B12, which helps your body use iron) and/or take iron supplements. See a doctor* if you’re having these symptoms.

5 foods to avoid if you have anemia

Note: This article is intended for people who have been diagnosed by a qualified health care professional, advised to treat themselves and advised on how to treat themselves. This article is not a substitute for medical advice.

Foods to avoid when you’re anemic

While most people diagnosed with anemia are aware of many foods that can bring their iron levels back up to normal, it’s less well-known that some foods actually interfere with iron absorption. If you eat these foods alongside iron-boosting foods, you may end up doing yourself little good. If you have a history of anemia, knowing about these foods can help you prevent or lessen your bouts of it.

Do you need to give these foods up? Not necessarily, and certainly not entirely. What you need to do is: avoid having these foods in your stomach while you’re also digesting iron-rich foods or iron supplements. For example: don’t drink red wine within an hour to either side of the steak dinner you’re eating in hopes of boosting your iron levels. Additionally, you can counteract the iron-blocking effects of these foods by having some Vitamin C along with them.

  1. Red wine. The reservatol that helps fight heart disease and cancer seems to inhibit iron absorption. But white wine seems to help with iron absorption, so that’s an option.
  2. Coffee. Coffee can also keep you from absorbing iron into your system. Avoid it within an hour either way of an iron supplement or iron rich meal.
  3. Black and green teas chelate with iron from plant sources, making it indigestible. Iron supplements are typically from plant sources. Tea doesn’t have this effect with meat iron {PDF link} sources, however. And in populations that drink a lot of tea, there’s no more anemia than in other populations, so there’s definitely still some research to be done in this area.
  4. Soy proteins. While one might argue that soy is rich in iron, non-fermented soy is also rich in phytic acid, which interferes with absorption of iron and other nutrients. Interestingly, fermented soy products (like soy sauce) can increase your ability to absorb iron. (Some sources actually recommend tofu for combating anemia because the phylic acid doesn’t completely block iron absorption, so you still get some iron from the soy. If you think tofu is your best available source for iron, be sure to eat it with plenty of vitamin C for best effect.)
  5. Spinach. You’ve probably heard that spinach is rich in iron and therefore great for anemia. It is rich in iron, but it’s never helped me with anemia at all. Turns out it has something called oxalic acid which binds with the iron and keeps your body from using it. Try broccoli, kale and other dark leafy greens instead.


  1. Miguel A. Cervantes Jr. says

    Thank You for the vital information. I never understood that iron absorption was effected by what you eat! I’ll try to follow the simple guide-lines you have set forth and hope for the best.

    MAC JR

  2. Jasmyn says

    I was anemic when i was younger but then it stopped, but lately I started drinking alot of green tea, like 3-4 times a day , just because i heard it was healthy for you & a better alternative to coffee, but yesterday i broke out in red, blotchy, itchy hives. I took a shower, put Calamine lotion on it, took some benadryl, and then went to bed, and when i woke up it was even worst than yesterday! I’m thinking since anemia can come & go, i was just anemic, and is having an allergic reaction because i drank too much green tea. I also have eczema. Do you think this is why i broke out in hives? because i drank too much green tea?

    • SnappyLiving says

      I don’t know, Jasmyn – I’ve never heard of that reaction to green tea, but I have heard that people can be allergic to anything. But if it was an allergic reaction, Benedryl should have helped at least some, I would think. I’m really not sure what to tell you – you might want to see a doctor, because a lot of things (even stress) can cause hives, and there’s just no telling. Good luck!

  3. Deb says

    I’ve been anemic since a teen, in my 40s now, and always needed iron supplements. Just out of curiosity I was looking @ some of the info on foods to eat/avoid for anemics. This site sounds like a good one for basic info, and included some things I hadn’t heard. Thanks!

  4. adra says

    I have severe anemia do you no if it affects your hearing or your sight ? my balance seems to be affected also is there anything i can do to help with those?

  5. mary says

    This was really informative! I have been on a diet program that is all soy based products and 1 meal of meat and greens. The 5 products all contain at least 9-11g of soy. When I started this diet my CBC was normal…now I am really anemic with a level of 7.6! I have gone soy free and on a supplement…now to get rid of the coffee!

  6. paula says

    Hie.what do you need to do if your concerntration levels have decreased due to anaemia.I was once intelligent now I find it hard to concerntrate on work or reading.I need something to boost my memory.I have memory loss and I’m only 27.I’ve been taking iron supplemennts but they don’t seem to really work.iron deficiency

    • SnappyLiving says

      I think that’s a question for a medical professional. I also get foggy brained when I’m anemic, but getting the anemia to go away is the only solution I know, and what makes your anemia better can vary a lot from one patient to the next.

      FWIW, according to my doctors over the years, my anemia should respond just fine to iron pills, but it doens’t. Maybe I don’t digest them properly? Who knows? But what I’ve found works is eating hamburger and steak daily until I get better. But that doesn’t work for everybody, which is why a doctor might be able to give you better info.

  7. Marlene says

    Thanks for this informative article on iron absorption. It has certainly set certain things straight. Very interesting.

  8. says

    Does anemia cause sight problems. I am taking iron tablets Ifeel extremely tired and finding it very had to do the my normal work. I have bouts of dizziness.

    • SnappyLiving says

      I’m not sure, but I do seem more vulnerable to eye strain when I have it. But if you’re taking iron and still having symptoms, I’d suggest seeing a doctor to make sure anemia is actually what you’re dealing with. Good luck!

    • SnappyLiving says

      I have no idea, and that’s something you’d need to check with a medical practitioner. I believe that could be a lot of different things, but as far as I know, it’s not a symptom of anemia and you should get it checked out.

  9. theresa ondradas says

    what about soya milk from taho every other day for a critical level of hemoglobin due to chemotheraphy?

    • SnappyLiving says

      It’s hard to say, when you’re dealing with multiple health issues. If a medical practitioner is recommending soy milk, I’d take their advice. If you can have some vitamin C along with it, the research I have done suggests that would help you absorb more iron and hopefully stave off anemia. But please be sure to talk to a doctor, because this is really a question for a medical expert, which I am not. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *