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Is there a type of iron that is better absorbed than others?

Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics

The body is more efficient at absorbing iron from animal foods (heme iron) than plant foods (non-heme iron). In addition to consuming meat, one could help increase absorption of non-heme iron by consuming this form of iron along with vitamin C. Many vegetables contain vitamin C and non-heme iron and therefore work synergistically to ensure adequate iron absorption. One could also drizzle lemon juice or other sources of vitamin C on plant-sources of iron to help increase absorption. As far as iron supplements are concerned, look for iron as iron-bisglycinate. It is gentle on the stomach and intestinal tract and has been shown to be better absorbed than the more commonly used iron supplement ferrous sulfate.

Yes. Iron in foods comes in two forms, heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal products like red meat. Non-heme iron is found in both animal and plant products. Our body absorbs more heme iron than non-heme iron.
Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Yes, heme iron found in lean meat, seafood and poultry is absorbed more readily than non-heme iron contained in enriched cereals, breads, spinach, beans and lentils. Having a food with vitamin C (tomatoes, tomato sauce, citrus fruits, peppers) helps increase iron absorption. Women who are capable of becoming pregnant are at risk of iron deficiency because iron is lost each month due to menstrual cycles.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.