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Dietary Iron and Deficiencies

Content by: Erin (Nugent) Bern, RD

Dietary iron sources are readily available and easy to prepare. Identify iron-rich foods and the way the body absorbs iron.

Dietary Iron and Deficiencies


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Dietary iron sources are readily available and easy to prepare. Iron supplements may not be necessary when individuals are able to identify iron-rich foods and understand how the body absorbs iron.

Heme iron is more readily absorbed in the body than non-heme iron. Heme iron sources include most meat items: read meat, pork and poultry.

Non-heme iron sources include green leafy vegetables, beans, eggs, peas, fortified cereals, breads and pastas.

Vitamin C enhances the body's ability to absorb iron. Consuming a source of Vitamin C at the same time as an iron source can help the body to more efficiently absorb and utilize dietary iron. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi, melons, strawberries and tomatoes.

Calcium and iron often compete for absorption in the body. It is recommended to consume iron rich foods separate from high calcium foods (most commonly dairy products) for optimal absorption.

When focusing on maximizing the amount of iron consumed and absorbed in one's diet, individuals should consume iron-rich foods with a source of Vitamin C and avoid caffeine or dairy at the same meal or snack.

Did you know?
Caffeine has also been found to inhibit iron absorption!

Next Steps:
1. Identify sources of heme iron, for more ready absorption in the body.
2. Consume iron-rich foods in combination with Vitamin C.
3. Avoid consuming caffeine and dairy with iron.

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