The Best Sickle Cell Anemia Diet

The Sanguine team attended the 48th Annual Sickle Cell Disease Association of America Convention in October of 2020. One of the highlights of the convention was a presentation by Dr. Carolyn Rowley, the Founder and Executive Director of Cayenne Wellness Center (a nonprofit organization dedicated to health and wellness). Dr. Rowley specializes in health psychology and nutrition and often works with sickle cell disease patients and their families. 


Dr. Rowley emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet to manage sickle cell disease, and is known for being an advocate of the 3-4-4 method. Patients with sickle cell disease often suffer from nutritional deficiencies that lead to problems such as impaired development, chronic pain, and increased susceptibility to infection. Research shows that sickle cell patients have higher caloric and micronutrient needs than average adults. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals that living organisms need for normal growth. A better diet can ensure that a patient is receiving all necessary nutrients to help prevent deficiencies which decrease the likelihood of disease exacerbation.


Dr. Rowley suggests that the 3-4-4 eating method is the best sickle cell anemia diet. The 3-4-4 method is an eating plan that is designed to make sure an individual gets all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals they need for optimal health. The 3-4-4 diet consists of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats!


The 3-4-4 eating method includes 3 meals and 2 snacks per day. 3 stands for breakfast: dried fruit, fresh fruit, and a grain. 4 stands for lunch: fresh fruit, green vegetable, orange vegetable, and protein/grain. The last 4 stands for dinner which consists of the same foods as lunch. Examples of fresh fruit include bananas, melons, apples, pears, apricots, etc. Examples of dried fruit include raisins, prunes, and dates. Grain examples include oatmeal, quinoa, buckwheat, etc. Green vegetable examples include spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, etc. Orange vegetable examples include carrots, yams, acorn squash, and butternut squash. Snacks on the 3-4-4 eating plan may include items like homemade trail mix, dried fruit, rice cakes with almond butter, and larabars. 


Studies show that individuals with sickle cell disease often have zinc; folic acid; magnesium; and vitamin A, C, and E deficiencies. Below is a list of some essential nutrients and examples!


Vitamin C: kiwis, oranges 

Vitamin E: mustard greens, sunflower seeds 

Folic Acid: romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans beets, lentils, papaya 

*Folic Acid plays an important role in the development of red blood cells which is why it’s an especially important nutrient for sickle cell patients. 

Vitamin D: sun exposure, salmon

Vitamin A: carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale 

Vitamin B12: snapper baked, steamed shrimp, baked salmon, calf’s liver, supplements (for vegetarians) 

Magnesium: spinach, mustard greens, pumpkin seeds 

Phosphorus: almonds, lentils, milk, yoghurt cheese, eggs, beef, chicken, turkey, fish  

Zinc: spinach, broccoli, asparagus

Fiber: cauliflower, broccoli, raspberries, flax seeds, green beans, eggplant 

Calcium: spinach, mustang greens, collard green, turnip greens, kale, oranges, salmon 

According to Dr. Rowley, the 3-4-4 eating method may be the best sickle cell anemia diet for making sure a patient is getting all necessary vitamins and minerals for optimal health and to prevent deficiencies.


By Neelem Sheikh

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