Can iron-deficiency anemia be treated?

Yes. This type of anemia can be treated and cured. First, your healthcare provider will determine if the anemia is being caused by a poor diet or by a more serious health problem. Then you can be treated for both the anemia and its cause. Iron-deficiency anemia can be treated with iron supplements taken by mouth, or by eating foods that are high in iron.

What foods are high in iron?

The iron in food comes from two sources: animals and plants. Iron from animal sources is known as heme iron and is found in meat and fish. Iron from plants is known as nonheme iron, and is found in certain vegetables and in iron-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. Heme iron is better absorbed by the body than nonheme iron.

The following foods are good sources of heme iron (from animal sources):

  • Chicken liver
  • Oysters
  • Clams
  • Beef liver
  • Beef (chuck roast, lean ground beef)
  • Turkey leg
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Shrimp
  • Leg of lamb

The following foods are good sources of nonheme iron (from plants):

  • Raisin bran (enriched)
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Beans (kidney, lima, Navy)
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Molasses
  • Spinach
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Brown rice

Try to combine nonheme iron foods with vitamin C (for example, a glass of orange juice) to increase absorption of iron.

Talk to your healthcare provider to determine how much iron you need every day.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/26/2017.


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