How to Increase the Absorption of Iron from Foods?

The creation of red blood cells, the transportation of oxygen, and the synthesis of energy are just a few of the processes that iron is essential for. Iron deficiency, however, is a widespread issue around the world, particularly among vegans, vegetarians, and women.

Mineral iron is one that your body must have in order to function properly. As a result, it is crucial that you get enough of it in your diet each day. Intriguingly, the foods you eat affect how well iron is absorbed into your body as well as how much iron you consume.

Once iron has been absorbed by your body, it is utilised to create haemoglobin, a protein that helps your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. Myoglobin, a protein that stores oxygen in your muscles, also contains iron as one of its constituent parts. When you use your muscles, you use this oxygen.

For most people, the recommended daily iron intake ranges from 7 to 18 milligrams (mg), whereas, pregnant women should consume up to 27 (mg).

Iron Food Sources

Despite what you may have heard, there are many more meals that naturally contain iron besides red meat. Iron can be found in food in two different forms - heme and non-heme.

Heme Iron Sources

Animal products including meat, fish, and poultry that also contain hemoglobin are known to contain heme iron. The best form of iron is heme iron, as your body can easily absorb up to 40% of it.

Beef, pork, chicken, veal, fish like halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, or tuna, and shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels are all excellent sources of heme iron.

For instance, liver and red meat are excellent suppliers of iron.

Non-heme Iron Sources

Grains, vegetables, and fortified foods all include non-heme iron, which is predominantly derived from plant sources. This is the type that is included in many supplements, iron-fortified foods, and other enriched or fortified foods.

Non-heme iron is bioavailable, although it absorbs significantly less quickly than heme iron. Rice, wheat, oats, fortified cereals, and other grains are excellent sources of non-heme iron.

Demographies Vulnerable to Deficiencies

Around 25% of the world's population suffers from anaemia, which has iron deficiency as its most common cause.

  • The symptoms of iron deficiency can range from exhaustion to headaches, sensitivity to the cold, and shortness of breath when performing everyday activities. 

  • Moreover, an iron shortage can lead to diminished mental capacity and attention span. In actuality, learning difficulties have been connected to early childhood iron shortage.

  • The most vulnerable groups to iron deficiency are children, adolescents, and women of reproductive age, especially during pregnancy. This is due to the fact that their bodies often do not get enough iron from their diets.

  • Furthermore, it's often believed that vegetarians and vegans are more likely to experience iron deficiency. On this matter, however, there are contradicting studies.

Vegetarians are typically advised to increase their recommended iron intake by 1.8 to make up for the decreased absorption of non-heme iron.

Foods that Increase Iron Absorption

While not all dietary iron is absorbed evenly by the body, certain meals can improve absorption.

Foods High in Vitamin C

These are as listed below −

  • Foods containing beta-carotene and vitamin A

  • Fish, poultry, and meat

  • foods that may prevent the absorption of iron

  • Some meals can aid in iron absorption while others can inhibit it.

  • Phytate-containing foods

  • Foods high in calcium

  • Foodstuffs rich in polyphenols

Strategies to Enhance Iron Absorption

This article will go through some practical strategies for enhancing iron absorption from meals.

Eat Vitamin C-rich Foods That are High in Iron

An essential ingredient called vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from plant-based sources. Citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, mangoes, papayas, bell peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes are foods high in vitamin C. These foods can considerably improve iron absorption when eaten alongside foods high in iron including spinach, beans, lentils, tofu, and fortified cereals.

Eat Foods High in Calcium and low in Iron Separately

The body's ability to absorb iron might be hampered by calcium. As a result, it is advised against eating iron-rich meals at the same time as calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, fortified orange juice, and calcium supplements. Prior to having an iron-rich food, it is preferable to wait at least two hours after consuming a calcium-rich food.

Use Cast Iron Cookware When Cooking

Food's iron content might rise when cooked in cast iron cookware. A small amount of iron is released into the meal when it's cooked in cast iron.


Health concerns associated with too much food-based iron poisoning are uncommon. Your body's internal balancing mechanism ensures that it gets just enough once it is consumed. However excessive use of iron supplements can result in lethal overdoses and other negative health effects.

  • Hemochromatosis, a disorder, can cause certain people to have excessive iron levels. Usually, a gene that increases absorption is to blame for this.

  • Additional factors that contribute to iron excess include frequent blood transfusions, high dietary iron intake, and uncommon metabolic diseases.

  • Furthermore, taking too much iron over time may result in the formation of significant deposits of the mineral in the liver and other tissues.

Updated on: 03-Apr-2023


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