Women's Health

Take charge of your iron intake

November 24, 2022

Iron helps make red blood cells and carries oxygen around your body so keeping up your iron intake is extremely important.

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Iron is a mineral found in our bodies. It helps make red blood cells and carries oxygen around your body so keeping up your iron intake is extremely important. It assists in energy production and maintains optimal immune function. Various life stages and physical activity levels require more iron, especially during pregnancy!

Recommended Dietary Intake for Iron

iron sources

Haeme iron is bioavailable, meaning it is easily absorbed in the body. Haeme iron is found in animal sources such as meats, poultry and fish.

Non-Haeme iron is harder for the body to absorb and is found in plant-based sources like fruits, vegetables, dairy, legumes, nuts and grains.

Plant-based iron.

A diet rich in whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, iron-fortified cereals, and green leafy vegetables provides an adequate iron intake (1). Haeme iron (found in animal products) is better absorbed (15–30%) than non-haeme iron (5–10%). Vegans and vegetarians who eat a varied diet are not at any greater risk of iron deficiency anemia than those that eat animal products. Iron absorption from an omnivore diet is claimed to be about 18%, whereas for a plant-based diet it’s 10% (1).

Iron Enhancers

Dietary strategies that can help increase your absorption of iron:

  • Eat vitamin C-containing food (fruits and vegetables) at meal times.
  • Eating vegetables at the same time as animal protein boosts iron absorption from plant sources.
  • Cooking vegetables will increase the amount of available non-haeme iron.

Iron Inhibitors

Things that may decrease your absorption of iron are:

  • Avoid tea and coffee at meal times as the polyphenols can decrease iron absorption.
  • Avoid eating large amounts of dairy, berries, chocolate with iron sources as these can reduce absorption.

Want to know more? This post describes more about iron deficiency.

REFERENCES

Craig, et al. (2021). The Safe and Effective Use of Plant-Based Diets with Guidelines for Health Professionals. Nutrients, 13(11), 4144. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13114144

Dietitians Australia. (2022). Dietary iron. https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/health-advice/dietary-iron-makes-healthy-bodies

National Health and Medical Research Council. (2014, March 17). Iron [Nutrient Page]. https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/iron

Nutrition Australia. (2021, October 5). Iron. Nutrition Australia. https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/iron/

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