As a lifelong vegetarian who has struggled with iron-deficiency anemia in the past, I know firsthand that there is an overwhelming amount of information on the Internet about how to add iron into your diet and how to avoid the exhaustion associated with an iron deficiency. In order to help declutter some of that information, I consulted Emily DiValerio, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Wellness Coach for MyWay to Health.

Anemia is a condition that involves a low red blood cell count, however, it can also occur when your red blood cells lack enough hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein. For this reason, the most common type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia. Hemoglobin helps carry oxygenated blood to different parts of the body, so when there isn't enough of it to go around, you get the characteristic exhaustion associated with anemia. 

Here are five of the simplest ways to avoid anemia so that you can stay healthy and energized.

1. Eat foods rich in iron 

spinach, cabbage, salad, pasture, lettuce, vegetable
Caroline Ingalls

It may seem obvious that the easiest way to avoid an iron deficiency is to eat more iron, but, do you really know how much iron you need? A college-age woman needs between 15-18 mg of iron a day, while a college-age man needs between 8-11 mg. For reference, an egg only has .6 mg of iron. Especially if you are vegetarian or vegan, it's important to focus your diet on iron-rich foods—iron from meat is better absorbed by our bodies than iron from plants. 

For meat and seafood eaters, good sources of iron include beef, veal, poultry, clams, oysters, shrimp, and sardines.

Vegetarians should eat a lot of eggs, and join vegans in eating grains, starchy veggies (like potatoes), soybeans or edamame, tofu, dark leafy greens, beans and peas, nuts and dried fruit.

#SpoonTip: Another type of anemia for vegetarians and vegans to be aware of is vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. Good sources of B12 include eggs and dairy products, or unsweetened soy milk, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast for vegans. 

2. Eat foods fortified with iron 

cereal, wheat, sweet, corn, Bowl, Cheerios, oats, Gluten Free, breakfast
Caroline Ingalls

Most cereals are fortified with iron and many include almost an entire day's worth in a single serving. For vegetarians and vegans, cereal also tends to be fortified with B12, which can help you avoid both common types of anemia in a single meal.

3. Eat foods rich in vitamin C

orange, citrus
Hannah Leverson

Vitamin C increases the body's absorption of iron, and thus DiValerio recommends including foods rich in vitamin C into each meal. Good sources of vitamin C include citric juices, fruits, melons, oranges, peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli.

4. Limit coffee and/or tea during meals 

lemon, water, lemonade
Caroline Liu

Hydrate yourself with water during your next meal, as both coffee and tea (yes, even green tea) can drastically reduce the amount of iron absorbed from your food. Some studies have even shown a 62 percent decrease in iron absorption when tea is consumed with a meal.

There is a catch, however. If your iron comes from meat sources (read: heme iron), it is unaffected by coffee or tea consumption. But vegetarians and vegans, your plant-based, non-heme iron is indeed highly affected by these drinks. 

5. Track your dietary intake

Finally, if you don't keep track of what you're eating, you won't know how to make sure you're getting enough iron into your diet to avoid anemia. Use an app such like MyFitnessPal to keep track of all the iron-rich foods you are adding to your diet.

If you follow these five simple tips, in addition to eating a healthy diet and practicing other healthy habits, you should be able to stave of contracting anemia due to a low-intake of iron.