Do Certain Foods Inhibit Iron Absorption? Here’s What To Do About It

Apr 1, 2022


Iron is a finicky essential mineral that’s hard to know if you’re getting enough of, so much so, it’s estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that 2 billion people are affected by anemia worldwide. Despite your best efforts, it’s possible that your supplement regimen might be working against you. How you eat, pair foods, along with the supplements you take, and more specifically, the time you take them, may thwart your body’s ability to adequately absorb iron.

Iron deficiency is a major world health issue that is to a great extent caused by poor iron absorption from the diet. Several dietary factors can contribute to a lack of iron absorption. While some of our iron needs are met endogenously, we all have daily iron needs from exogenous sources. And a large chunk of us aren’t getting enough, specifically women and children. Around 5 percent of the U.S. adult population is failing to consume just five to eight milligrams of this mineral each day. We approximately need 8-27 milligrams of iron daily, depending on our gender and the life stages that we are in.

How Food And Beverage Affect Iron Absorption:
Iron has an incredibly low bioavailability making it arduous to absorb. Also, the entire population loses a certain amount of iron each day through sweat and urine. Women who menstruate lose even more iron when they get their periods each month, thus requiring a certain amount of dietary iron to make up for these losses.

There are two types of dietary iron. Heme iron comes from animal sources (meat, fish, and poultry), and non-heme iron comes from both plants and animals. Non-heme iron isn’t as easily absorbed as its counterpart, so plant-based eaters might want to be more mindful of this. But whether you’re plant-based or not, iron deficiency is something that can affect us all. Learning and becoming aware of getting the most out of this mineral is beneficial, especially if you are lacking in the iron department.

5 Tips For Absorbing More Iron From Your Diet:

1. Avoid Coffee And Tea Around Meal Time
If you’re drinking at least one cup of caffeinated tea or coffee a day, you might want to rethink the foods you’re pairing it with. Combining coffee and tea with iron-rich foods can actually interfere with your absorption of this vital mineral. While it’s known that the polyphenols and tannins that are found in these beverages are incredible for you, they will suppress non-heme iron absorption . So much so that in one review, drinking a cup of black tea with a meal reduced iron absorption by 60-70%, regardless of whether the tea was weak, average, or strong. To counteract these effects, leave a few hours between your iron-rich meals and your tea or coffee.

2. Avoid Pairing Calcium And Iron Together
Calcium and iron compete for the same receptors in the body. So consuming calcium at the same time as an iron supplement or iron-rich foods can inhibit the absorption of iron. To ensure maximum absorption calcium-rich foods should not be eaten with meals that provide the majority of your dietary iron. If you supplement with calcium and iron, they should ideally be taken at different times of the day, spaced out by a few hours, if possible.

3. Add Vitamin C To Iron-Rich Meals
Vitamin C works to enhance the bioavailability of non-heme iron. Furthermore, vitamin C helps to optimize the uptake of iron from transferrin (the protein that transports iron through the blood), ensuring that iron is absorbed efficiently and distributed throughout the body. Pair your iron-filled meals with a side of vitamin C-rich foods. This could look like a bowl of oatmeal in the morning with oranges, strawberries, dried apricots, etc. Or you could simply squeeze a lemon or lime on top of your greens, legumes, and grains. The options are endless and ultimately something to be more cognisant about if iron absorption is an issue for you.

4. Add Vitamin A And Beta-Carotene To Iron-Rich Meals
Vitamin A plays a vital role in maintaining optimal vision, bone growth, and helping assist your immune system. In terms of iron absorption, a study of 100 participants was given cereal-based meals that had the presence of vitamin A. It was found that iron absorption was increased by 200% for rice, 80% for wheat, and 140% for corn. Suggesting that both compounds prevented the inhibitory effect of phytates on iron absorption. In the same study, it was said that adding beta-carotene to the meals increased absorption by more than 300% for rice and 180% for wheat and corn. Concluding that vitamin A and beta-carotene may form a unique complex with iron, keeping it soluble in the intestinal lumen and preventing the inhibitory effect of phytates and polyphenols on iron absorption. Vitamin A and beta-carotene-rich foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, squash, red peppers, apricots, oranges, peaches, and cantaloupe.

5. Space Out Yours Supplement
If you do find yourself needing to supplement with iron, try taking it on an empty stomach. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach. However, iron supplements can cause stomach cramps and nausea in some people, so taking them with food may be non-negotiable. If that’s the case, use these tips above to decipher how you should space out your supplement.

The Takeaway:
With iron being one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the world, implementing some of these tips may be useful. Of course, if you are anemic, you should always be working with your doctor or dietitian regarding supplementation. But for those who want to maintain optimal health, it can be immensely advantageous to pay attention to what you are and aren’t pairing with your iron-rich foods.

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– 鉄分の吸収を高める食事法を試みていますか?



鉄は生物学的な利用効率が信じられないほど低く、吸収が困難です。 また、全人口が汗や尿によって毎日一定量の鉄分を失っています。 月経のある女性は、月経が始まるとさらに多くの鉄分を失うため、これらの損失を補うために食事中で一定量の鉄分を摂る必要があります。

食事から摂る鉄には2つのタイプがあります。 ヘム鉄は動物源(肉、魚、家禽)に由来し、非ヘム鉄は植物と動物の両方に由来します。 非ヘム鉄は、簡単には吸収されないため、植物ベースの食事をする人は、更に注意を払う必要があるかもしれません。 しかし、あなたが植物ベースであるかどうかにかかわらず、鉄欠乏は大多数の人に影響を与える可能性があるものです。このミネラルを最大限に活用することを学び、意識することは有益です。