The mineral iron is essential for good health. Not only does it help transport oxygenated blood around the body, but it also supports your energy, growth, and hormone synthesis, as well as helping to keep the immune system happy (EFSA, 2010). Here’s how to help increase your body’s ability to absorb iron and keep yourself healthy.
Eat more iron rich food
Your diet is essential to getting enough iron and so what you eat can really make a difference. However, there are two types of iron found in food – heme iron, which is found in animal-based foods and non-heme iron, which is sourced from plants and not so easily absorbed by your body.
Getting a good balance of iron rich food in your daily diet is key to increasing your iron levels. Examples of iron rich foods include red meat, poultry, and fish, as well as dark leafy greens, beans, lentils, tofu, oats, eggs, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.
Ensure your diet includes vitamin C
As non-heme iron (which is typically found in plant-based foods) is not as easy for your body to absorb as iron sourced from meat, adding ingredients that are rich in vitamin C can make a difference come mealtime. Vitamin C has been shown to improve the absorption rate of non-heme iron by helping to store it in a form that your body can more easily work with.
Good sources of vitamin C include peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruit, and broccoli.
Plan your tea of coffee schedule
Your daily cuppa could also be affecting your body’s ability to absorb iron. Both tea and coffee contain polyphenol compounds called tannins which can inhibit iron absorption, especially non-heme iron. So, avoiding putting the kettle on for your favourite brew around your mealtime could help your body’s uptake of this essential mineral.
Avoid foods that may hinder iron absorption
There are also other foods that can impact iron absorption, including calcium-rich ingredients such as milk and cheese. Calcium can hinder iron absorption so try to avoid foods that contain the mineral at the same time as your main iron-rich meal.
A substance called phytate, which is found in bran as well as some grains and legumes can also interfere with iron uptake if eaten in large quantities.
Take an iron supplement
As well as eating iron-rich foods and managing your meals and ingredients to maximise absorption, iron tablets are excellent for safeguarding your health, especially if you are prone to or have been diagnosed with an iron deficiency.
Iron tablets are convenient and easy to take and can also make up any shortfall of the mineral in your diet, so can be used as an extra boost to support your energy levels and keep you in good health.