You might think the only way to boost your iron intake is through a hearty meal, but that’s not the case — some drinks can also top up your iron levels.
Which drink ingredients prevent anemia?
Meats are high in iron, but we’re gonna pass on adding meat to our next smoothie, thankyouverymuch. Instead, we’ll add other (smoothie-approved) iron-rich foods like:
Juices can also help, but juicing retains less of the fruit/veg than smoothie-making. Storage time can also affect a juice’s nutrient content, so it’s best to make your juices fresh.
The recommended daily intake for men ages 19 and up is at least 8 milligrams (mg). Women who have periods need a smidge more, with a recommendation of 18 mg. After menopause (when your period stops), the requirement drops to 8 mg.
Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. Hemoglobin moves oxygen around your bod. So when your iron is low, your blood can’t do its job.
We rounded up the bevvies that can help.
One vitamin that pairs well with iron is vitamin C.
There are two types of iron, heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron is found in animal food sources such as meat. Nonheme iron comes from plants and iron-fortified foods. You can’t absorb nonheme iron as easily as its heme cousin. Enter vitamin C.
Chemistry is behind vitamin C’s ability to boost iron absorption. When iron breaks down, it needs an acidic environment so it can dissolve completely before your body absorbs it. Vitamin C can help create that acidic environment in your stomach, according to research from 2020.
With that in mind, here are four vitamin C-loaded drinks to drink alongside high iron foods to keep your iron absorption running smoothly.
When you think of vitamin C, oranges are probably the first thing that comes to mind. They definitely sit at the top of the vitamin C-rich foods list. For each medium orange, you’re getting 70 mg of vitamin C. In 3/4 cup of orange juice, that amount is pushed up to 93 mg.
The fresh orange smoothie recipe calls for 4 whole oranges and makes 4 to 5 cups of smoothie. That means in every cup you drink, you’re likely sipping on a whole orange.
When kiwi is combined with mango, pineapple juice, and banana, the result is a deliciously fruity beverage with even more vitamin C.
Busy day ahead? A simple smoothie with three ingredients is a quick surefire way to get your vitamin C in without killing too much time. All you need is frozen strawberries, your fave milk, and some strawberry jam.
Each cup of strawberries will provide you about 88 mg of vitamin C. Since the recipe calls for 3 cups of strawberries, the entire blender of smoothie will contain a whopping 264 mg of vitamin C. (If you don’t intend to share, that is!)
If you thought oranges were rich in vitamin C, you may not have tried guava. This tropical fruit is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. Each medium guava (about 55 grams) contains 126 mg of vitamin C. Unfortunately, these aren’t as easy to find in grocery stores as oranges.
The addition of strawberries and mango to this tropical smoothie amps up the vitamin C content even more.
When you have anemia, that means your body’s iron stores are low and there aren’t enough normal red blood cells to carry oxygen around. The solution? Eating more iron-rich foods, of course!
Although the heme iron found in animal sources is easier for your body to absorb than the nonheme iron in plant-based foods, you can still meet your iron needs and avoid deficiency with iron-rich fruits and veggies.
Try out these six smoothies rich in iron (some with added vitamin C foods)!
The vitamin C from strawberries and iron from spinach make this smoothie the perfect combination. Spinach and other leafy greens are good sources of nonheme iron, with every 3 cups of spinach providing 2 mg of iron.
Those 3 cups of spinach can also provide 24 mg of vitamin C. And with the addition of strawberries, that total is pushed to 112 mg. Anemia who?! We don’t know her.
The smell of your pee may get a little funky after you eat asparagus. But it’s worth it to avoid anemia, right?
Asparagus isn’t a common smoothie ingredient. But each cup of raw asparagus provides 2.89 mg of iron, which means this recipe provides 5.78 mg of iron in total. By combining asparagus with apples, avocados, lime juice, and other greens, you wind up with a drink you never knew you wanted.
Oh, soy! Tofu is an excellent protein source made from coagulated soy milk. It also contains iron, which can provide benefits for folks who avoid eating animal products.
This recipe uses silken tofu, which gives the smoothie a nice creamy texture. Every 100 g of silken tofu provides 0.8 mg of iron.
The recipe calls for 12 ounces (340 g) of tofu, so the whole recipe would provide 2.72 mg of iron (or 0.7 mg per serving).
If you have only firm or extra-firm tofu, just add more liquid to the blender to get a consistency that suits you. Firm tofu also tends to contain a little more iron than its silken pals — 1.3 mg of iron per 100 g.
Prunes are dried plums that contain 1.49 mg of iron for every cup, and they’re high in fiber to keep you regular.
Although prunes don’t contain much vitamin C, this smoothie recipe suggests adding spinach or kale along with bananas to ramp up the flavor and the nutrient content.
Mulberries may not be the most common fruit in your grocery store. But if you can find them, use them to make this smoothie, which provides a good balance of iron and vitamin C.
The combination of mulberries, bananas, milk, oats, chia seeds, and Greek yogurt makes this a perfect morning smoothie that will keep you full until lunch and provide a bunch of iron.
One cup of mulberries contains 2.59 mg of iron and 51 mg of vitamin C, covering all your bases.
If you’re out of fresh or frozen fruit, dried fruit can do the trick. In addition to the potassium and vitamin A they contain, dried apricots have 1.08 mg of iron in every 40-g serving (approximately five dried apricots).
Dried fruit saves room in your fridge or freezer and lasts a long time without spoiling or getting freezer burnt.
The combination of tart apricots and the nuttiness from the almond milk and extract may even have you mixing this up for an iron-rich dessert.
Add a little more
Beyond fruits and veggies, you can add other ingredients to your smoothies to ramp up the iron content and flavor:
Juicing is a different process than blending fruits and veggies up into a smoothie, so it can affect the nutrient content of the food.
Smoothies consist of whole fruit and veg blended together. Juicing presses the fruit and vegetables firmly, leaving behind the pulp or bulk of the food and producing just the liquid. It’s a smoother chug, sure, but this definitely changes the fiber content.
Does it leave enough vitamin C to provide benefits for folks who need an iron boost, though?
Juices you can pick up at your local grocery store are usually labeled with their nutrient content (thanks, food labels!), but the storage time and temperature can impact it.
According to research from 2000, a fruit juice’s vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) content can drop by 29 to 41 percent when it’s stored at room temperature for 4 months.
If the juice has been opened and is sitting in your refrigerator, the vitamin C content decreases by 60 to 67 percent within 31 days. Fresh orange juice loses only 7 to 13 percent of its ascorbic acid in the same amount of time.
Making juice at home may be the best option to get the flavor profile you want and the vitamin C you need.
If you’ve got anemia, smoothies aren’t a full solution
Like many other smoothies, some of the ones we’ve listed here have pretty high sugar content. For many people (like those with diabetes or other metabolic issues), some of these smoothies just aren’t worth the risk.
Drinking a whole smoothie that contains 60 g of carbs and no protein just to get 1 mg of iron? Not a great idea. That’s why smoothies probably aren’t the best strategy for addressing iron deficiency.
It may be better to boost your iron intake through food or supplements. If you’re in doubt, consult a healthcare professional like a dietitian, who can highlight the best foods and drinks for you to consume.
There are a few bevvies you might want to drink less of if you’re low in iron. We apologize in advance, but they include:
According to a research from 2020, the polyphenols in these drinks can inhibit iron absorption. So don’t drink too much of these, and try to avoid consuming them in the same meal as iron food sources or supplements.
But if that morning coffee is what gets you pumped for the day ahead, don’t worry — you don’t have to skip these drinks completely.
When to call a doc about anemia
Depending on how severe your anemia is, your symptoms may vary. If your anemia is mild, you may not even have symptoms. As the condition gets more severe, you may experience:
- shortness of breath
- pale skin
- brittle nails
- cold feet and hands
- chest pain
If you’re feeling “off” and have any of those symptoms, contact a medical professional. Just a little blood draw will help you find out whether your symptoms are due to anemia.
From there, a medical pro may recommend taking an iron supplement or changing your diet to include more iron-rich foods (and drinks!).
Your body needs iron to keep your blood healthy and oxygen flowing. Vitamin C is iron’s right-hand henchperson, making sure your body absorbs as much iron as possible.
Thankfully, there’s a long list of ingredients that contain iron and vitamin C and taste great in liquid form. But it’s best to avoid black and herbal teas, coffee, and wine. Their plant compounds can block iron absorption.
So, pull out your blenders, grab your fruits and veggies, and let’s pump up the iron!