Iron is a mineral nutrient required by the body for growth, development, production of energy, and hormone synthesis.

Among the essential minerals is iron; which additionally, enhances one’s immunity.Essentially, you cannot do without it; and your doctor will always recommend a boost whenever they realize a deficiency in the body.

Types of Iron

The iron you consume from food is available in two main types, and they are both absorbed at different rates. The two types are;

Heme Iron

This is a type of iron you find in animal foods that are rich in hemoglobin. Great and rich sources of this type of iron are organ meats such as liver and red meat. Notably, your body absorbs 40% of this type of iron readilymaking it the best form of iron.

If you want to obtain this type of iron, you can eat pork, chicken, fish such as salmon, tuna, perch, and shellfish like oysters.

Non-heme Iron

This type of iron is obtained from plant sources such as grains, fortified foods, and green, fresh leafy vegetables. Non-heme iron is added to most iron supplements or iron-riched or iron-fortified foods. Interestingly, the largest amount of iron you consume, around 80-90%, comes from this form of iron.

The human body does not naturally absorb the non-heme iron as efficiently as it does the heme form. Moreover, you can obtain it from dried fruits such as apricots, fortified cereals and grains, beans, and dark green vegetables like kale.

Additionally, it is important to note that there are food sources such as meat with both types of iron. Since vegetarians do not consume meat, they have a higher exposure to anemia,

Iron Deficiency

This is a condition when the amount of iron in your body is insufficient to perform its functions. In this case, the amount of iron produced by your body does not match its demand; thus, the body will utilize the ones stored in your liver. When this happens, you are deficient in this mineral. The result of iron deficiency is the inability of your body to produce hemoglobin.

To know whether or not you have an iron deficiency, a doctor must perform some tests to confirm. The diagnosis can result in its mild form, which involves a hemoglobin level below 119g/l in females and below 129g/l in males.

Some of the symptoms that can tell you have iron deficiency include;

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Irritability
  • Brittle nails
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath

Therefore, if you experience any of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor.

Moreover, there are some risk factors for developing this condition. Females at the age of childbearing, pregnant women, those with a poor diet, frequent blood donors, vegetarians, vegans, infants, and children born prematurely are examples of those with higher chances of having iron deficiency.

Food Sources Of Iron

You can consume any of the following foods to boost the iron in your body;

  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Soya
  • Liver
  • Chicken
  • Red meat
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Dried fruits like apricots
  • Green and leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale

Whether you are diagnosed with iron deficiency or not, you should incorporate these foods into your diet. They are healthy and nutritious. This way, you don’t have to hassle with supplements.

Foods to Increase Iron Absorption

It is important to note that the food you consume can affect how iron is absorbed in your body. You can take meat, fish, poultry, and any of the following to increase the amount of iron you absorb;

Food Rich in Vitamin A

Your body requires vitamin A for a healthier vision, improved immunity, and growth in your bones. The good thing is, such foods are also rich in iron. Therefore, why not add some spinach, carrots, kale, red pepper, apricots, and oranges into your diet?

Foods Rich in Vitamin C

If you want to increase the iron your body absorbs, you can consume foods rich in vitamin C. You can include them as a part of your iron-rich meals. Wondering how to achieve this? Well, why not take that fortified cereal alongside a glass of orange juice for the vitamin C?

This vitamin can capture and store non-heme iron in a form that your body will absorb easily. So, what food options are a great source of vitamin C? You can have citrus fruits and juices, melons, strawberries, and green, leafy vegetables. Therefore, as you take the iron-rich foods, ensure you add some foods or drinks rich in vitamin C.

Foods to Avoid for Iron Absorption

If you want to increase the amount of iron your body can absorb, you can avoid any of the following foods;

  • Foods with phytate such as cereals, soy, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Foods rich in calcium, such as milk and cheese
  • Foods that contain polyphenols such as coffee, wine, and tea

It is important to note that even the slightest consumption of these foods can hinder iron absorption in your body.


Iron is an essential mineral your body requires invarious processes. You can be diagnosed with iron deficiency, and there are symptoms that can help you notice the same. As you have learned, there are two main forms of iron; your body absorbs the heme and non-heme iron at different rates. You can get them fromdifferent food sources. Moreover, if you want to increase iron absorption in your body, there are certain foods you can take, such as those rich in vitamin and C, and there are those to avoid, such as those that contain polyphenols.


Charlotte Cremers

MS, University of Tartu Sleep specialist Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.