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Iron in diet

Overview Food Sources Recommendations Side Effects
Alternative Names:
Diet - iron
Food Sources:

The best food sources of easily absorbed iron are animal products, which contain heme iron. Iron from vegetables, fruits, grains, and supplements (non-heme iron) is harder for the body to absorb. If you mix some lean meat, fish, or poultry with beans or dark leafy greens at a meal, you can improve absorption of vegetable sources of iron up to three times. Foods rich in vitamin C also increase iron absorption.

Some foods decrease iron absorption. Commercial black or pekoe teas contain substances that bind to iron so it cannot be used by the body.

Consider the amount of absorbable iron in a food, not just the total iron content. Iron sources that have high iron availability include the following:

  • Oysters
  • Liver
  • Lean red meat (especially beef)
  • Poultry, dark red meat
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Dried beans
  • Whole grains
  • Eggs (especially egg yolks)
  • Dried fruits
  • Dark leafy green vegetables

Reasonable amounts of iron are also found in lamb, pork, and shellfish. Non-heme iron is found in the following:

  • Whole grains
    • wheat
    • millet
    • oats
    • brown rice
  • Legumes
    • lima beans
    • soybeans
    • dried beans and peas
    • kidney beans
  • Seeds
    • almonds
    • Brazil nuts
  • Dried fruits
    • prunes
    • raisins
    • apricots
  • Vegetables
    • broccoli
    • spinach
    • kale
    • collards
    • asparagus
    • dandelion greens
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