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Best Foods for Anemia and Building Blood [Infographic]

Most of us don’t think about blood as being healthy or unhealthy. However, blood, like the rest of the body, is healthiest and functions best with the proper nutrients. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of anemia, and the essential nutrients and best foods to eat for building blood.

Are You Anemic? Classic Symptoms of Anemia:

  • Fatigue, feeling tired or weak
  • Feeling dizzy, especially upon standing from a sitting position
  • Headaches, especially in the front
  • Feeling cold, especially in the hands and feet
  • Irregular heartbeat and/or chest pain
  • Pale complexion

All of these symptoms make sense since the main job of blood is to transport oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. The most common blood disorder is anemia and occurs when you don’t have enough red blood cells, or the red blood cells you do have aren’t functioning properly.

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Those most at risk for iron deficiency or vitamin deficiency anemia include menstruating women, and those with intestinal disorders or absorption, chronic diseases and poor diets. Infants, young children and the elderly are also at risk.

Other anemias include hemolytic, aplastic and sickle-cell anemia; some of which can be inherited and may not be affected by nutrients at all. The most essential nutrients affecting red blood cells include iron, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate.

Food to Eat for Building Blood Iron

Iron is the most critical nutrient affecting red blood cell production. Iron deficiency is usually from blood loss (menstruation, childbirth, internal bleeding, colitis, Crohn’s disease, etc.) or the inability to absorb iron (leaky gut, celiac disease, etc.). One visible sign of iron deficiency is a smooth tongue (atrophic glossitis). Another common outward sign is cracks (usually bilateral) in the corners of the mouth (known as cheilosis).

The easiest sources of iron to absorb are from animal sources, known as heme iron. Red meats are the richest sources of the animal proteins but all animal proteins include iron. Other good sources of iron are plant based, known as non-heme iron. Non-heme iron isn’t as easily absorbed as heme iron. Good sources include dark greens like spinach and turnip greens, legumes, whole grains, raisins, Blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds and other seeds. Processed foods like cereals, breads and flours are fortified with iron also. To best absorb non-heme iron, eat those foods at the same meal with foods rich in vitamin C or animal proteins. An example of an iron-rich meal is chili. Beef with kidney beans provides heme and non-heme sources of iron and the tomatoes provide vitamin C for increased iron absorption. Taking a vitamin C supplement with a meal will not increase iron absorption like vitamin C from food sources will. The current RDA for iron is from 8 mg for adult males and non-menstruating females, to 18 mg for menstruating females.

Consider an iron supplement if you have anemia. Be aware that the ferrous sulfate form of iron often causes constipation for many individuals. Chelated iron, ferrous gluconate and heme iron are known to have less side effects. Proferrin ES is heme iron and a popular supplement. Read the many reviews and see why many choose to buy Proferrin ES.

To help get more iron in your diet, check out these healthy, high-iron recipes in this Recipe Roundup of Iron Rich Recipes for Energy and Healthy Blood.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for growth and maintenance of almost every bodily function, including blood health and building blood. Vitamin B6 supports red blood cell metabolism and protein metabolism. Studies in humans show the bioavailability of vitamin B6 from natural sources is limited though. Oral signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include an inflamed tongue (glossitis) and cracks in the corners of the mouth.

The best food sources of vitamin B6 include fish, long-grain rice, turkey, chicken, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Current RDA is 1.3 to 1.7 mg in adults. Vitamin B6 supplementation though is common at significantly higher levels as many consider the RDA to be a bare minimum.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a common deficiency, especially among vegans, the elderly and those with malabsorption issues. Oral signs of progressed vitamin B12 deficiency include a painful inflamed tongue with a fiery red appearance and mucosal ulcerations or lesions. A vitamin B12 deficiency can be extreme before any symptoms may appear.

Plant sources of vitamin B12 are rare. Vitamin B12 is found in all animal protein and is synthesized by bacteria in the stomach. Vitamin B12 supplementation may be necessary in vegans, the elderly and those with digestive problems. Digestive problems may lead to a lack of gastric intrinsic factor; a glycoprotein produced by the stomach that is necessary for vitamin B12 absorption. Vitamin B12 deficiency may also be more common in those taking acid-reducing medication such as Prilosec, as hydrochloric acid releases vitamin B12 from protein during digestion. Metformin may also reduce the absorption of vitamin B12 in about 10-30% of people.

In malabsorption issues, a vitamin B12 injection or sublingual B12 may be the best form. The methylcobalamin form of vitamin B12 is the preferred form. The current RDA of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg and, unlike the other B vitamins, vitamin B12 is stored in the liver.


Folate is essential for preventing vitamin-related anemia, as well as heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke and neural tube defects. Folate helps with protein metabolism and RNA/DNA production and cell division/replication. Oral signs of folate deficiency include gingivitis, cracks in the corners of the mouth and inflammation of the tongue.

Best sources of folate include long-grain rice, turkey and chicken giblets, legumes, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce and other dark leafy greens. The current RDA of folate is 400 mcg for adults. If folate supplementation is necessary, look for the the L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate form or 5-MTHF rather than folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic form and is used to fortify cereals, flours and macaroni products. Supplementation can mask clinical signs of vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anemia so it should be used judiciously. There also has been controversy about whether folic acid supplementation interferes with zinc absorption. However, in a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fortification of white bread with folic acid did not appear to affect zinc absorption in a group of young women.

To Supplement or Not?

If you are anemic or think you might be, definitely take steps to improve your nutrient intake to include the foods mentioned above. It is always best to get our nutrients from foods, however, it may not always be possible in full or adequate amounts due to certain conditions. If you need to supplement, consider a B-Complex rather than isolated B vitamins, which have the potential to mask other deficiencies.

Are you one of the 26.3% of Americans who consume vegetables three or more times per day (according to the CDC)? Or are you part of the 73.7% who eat less than three vegetable servings per day? Iron and folate are both plentiful in dark, green leafy vegetables and if they’re not part of your diet, you might consider supplementing with a greens food supplement. Make it your goal to consume a minimum of three servings of vegetables per day for healthy blood!

Have you had an experience with anemia? How were you able to build your blood back to health? We’d love to hear from you!



32 Responses to Best Foods for Anemia and Building Blood [Infographic]

  1. Sidney Cooperstein April 10, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Hello I recently gave blood and want to rebuild
    What I gave what foods and supplements wood be good for this type of thing

  2. Karen MW November 6, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    Wow! Thank you for this. I needed to regain my red blood cells to get away from being “anemic” and this really helps! 🙂

  3. Sr. Helen I. Alekhuojie, SSH November 20, 2014 at 3:58 am #

    thank you very much I am going to follow what has been listed to build up my red blood cell

  4. Mrs Judy W Miller January 28, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    I surprised you didn’t include beets on the list.

    • Theresa Groskopp, CN January 28, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

      Beets certainly are healthy and yummy! There not as high on the list for iron, folate or the B vitamins as other items; at least according to the USDA Nutrient Database.

      A well-rounded diet plus eliminating refined foods will definitely help with building blood. Beets are on my list for a nutritious food!

      • Edith February 23, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

        what about beef liver and onions? I was talking to this is good for you when you have low blood! after two surgeries in March I had the symptoms the front of headache ! I need some ideas to fill my blood really easy for me after the first surgery they put me on iron and then 4 weeks later the surgeon had to go back again since I had infection from my total knee replacement!

  5. Frank Magai March 23, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    Am loosing too much blood, but i dont know how to recover it.

    • Theresa Groskopp, CN March 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

      Frank if you are losing blood, the most important thing to do is to find out why you are losing blood. Recovering it will be nearly impossible if you continue to lose blood in large quantities.

  6. khushi April 21, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    if u r anemic & want to boost blood level then simply soak 10- 15 resins ( firstly rinsed & cleaned with water) in water at night. Consume early morning all the resins. Also include vit c in diet.

  7. Tomika Johnson May 19, 2015 at 8:14 pm #

    What if you are on blood thinner medication and can’t eat dark leafy food because of the vitamin K… what else can I eat or take to build my blood really quick. Plus my menstrual is very heavy do to the blood thinners…

  8. Robert Miller October 28, 2015 at 2:07 am #

    Thanks for this great post!

  9. Anwar December 26, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    I have the problem one of them which you mentioned above ”feeling cold specially in hands and feet” and I also have the problem of shivering specially with hands and while working hard. Even in summer , staying in rain at night makes problem for me like shivering. Is this Iron and vitamins problem?

    • Megan Hanna December 28, 2015 at 9:50 am #

      Nutrient deficiencies can cause a variety of problems, but every body is different. If you think your health concerns are related to inadequate nutrition, consult your doctor.

  10. S L Worthey February 2, 2016 at 9:39 pm #

    Thanks for this info, great post!
    I have G6PD, which is a genetic blood disorder. Found out after eating Fava beans, which caused a hemolytic event. Now I’am aware of the many foods, drugs and household items that are also triggers. One of the many foods are legumes, which I love. It is good to have a list of foods I can eat to replenish my RBCs faster. Thanks again, information is power!

    • S L Worthey February 3, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

      Sorry, I should have added that, the disorder causes anemia.

  11. Bipen Chettri February 18, 2016 at 6:47 am #

    My wife is anemia patient please give me the perfect medical treatment suggestions for the better health of my wife.

  12. Hilda March 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    I m losing blood , very weak .. When I over work my body a little my blood level drops.. What can I do??

  13. JT May 6, 2016 at 11:31 am #


    Over a long period of time my blood chemistry shows signs of slight anemia. At the same time I have hemochromatosis so I do not have an iron deficiency. I have to donate blood or have therapeutic phlebotomies regularly, every 2 months to keep my Feritin count low so the iron isn’t deposited in my organs or joints.

    I have always had low red blood counts and other markers for anemia since childhood. The difference for the last few years since I found out about the hemochromatosis is that I have been removing blood and taxing my body to produce more blood cells. I regularly eat meat and some green vegetables like broccoli and get B12/B6 shots after my blood lettings.

    Any suggestions or advice is appreciated.

  14. Lami May 22, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

    Lovely outline. Helpful to me and my family and friends.

  15. kailash goma October 5, 2016 at 2:11 am #

    Thank you mam!! Really I need this iron food list . I seriously suffered from low Rbc. Thanks again.

  16. robert October 19, 2016 at 11:12 pm #

    Over half the foods that are on this list is a big no no for dialyses patient. THE only vitamin we can get is the iron. Hopefully the nephrologist will give is 2 doses of vitamin b.

  17. Sarah January 23, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

    Thanks for the info. I recently found out that I have anemia because the signs were there severe headache, black stool,irregular heart beat, chileosis etc. Now am taking iron supplements and eating right. I also know the cause which is heavy menstrual period.

  18. Mar March 13, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    I have a lot of blood loss in my period, And I want to recover my blood which foods can do it best and fast to recover blood?

  19. Johnny January 29, 2018 at 7:27 am #

    Will taking multi vitamin supplement help?

    • Leslie Benson January 31, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

      Taking a daily multivitamin should help fill any nutritional gaps in your diet. For any medical advice, please consult with your doctor.

  20. Mariam February 21, 2018 at 8:45 am #

    My menstrual ends exactly two days is it normal or abnormal. Again my doctor says I don’t have blood in my system will it be the cause of my menses and what food will I eat to regain blood in my system please needs a reply.

    • Leslie Benson February 27, 2018 at 12:14 pm #

      Hi Mariam,
      Great question, but it is best to consult with your doctor about that specific issue. Thank you, and good luck with your health journey!

  21. mary bocchino June 2, 2018 at 6:24 pm #

    I want to print best foods for anemia.

  22. Norma August 17, 2018 at 2:10 pm #

    I have been borderline with anemia most of my life. Now at 66 yrs I was told I have anemia, stopped all dieting and gain weight the wrong way. Now taking barley green and many vitamins, but always did supplementation of vitamins. Now I am turning to juicing too, celery, beets, carrot, apple maybe ginger or garlic. I love vegetable that why I do not understand my anemia problems.

  23. CM December 30, 2018 at 8:44 am #

    Any advice on how to bulid platelets?

  24. George Foster February 2, 2019 at 11:31 am #

    I have low platelet count, in the 90-100 range, for the past 4-5 years. Previously, the count was normal. I am 85 years old. Please recommend. Thank you.

  25. George Foster February 2, 2019 at 11:32 am #

    I have low platelet count, in the 90-100 range, for the past 4-5 years. Previously, the count was normal.

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