Are you getting enough Iron?

By EP Dietetics

12:00am, Thursday 15 September 2016

Learn about the best food sources of iron and some practical tips for increasing Iron absorption.

Iron is a vital mineral. It  transports oxygen around the body, is required for red blood cell production and is necessary for a healthy immune system. The body is not able to make iron, so it relies on all of its iron to come from the foods that we eat.


How much is enough?

Women 19-50 years old: 18mg/day              Males 19-50 years old: 8mg/day

(Note- values vary for different age groups, genders and stages of life).


There are two types of Iron that we can obtain through food;

1-HAEM IRON from animal sources such as red meat, seafood and poultry.

2-NON-HAEM from plant based sources such as vegetables, legumes, cereals, nuts.

Some examples are listed in the table below;



Iron (mg)

Liver (haem)



Beef (haem)



Salmon (haem)



Lentils/kidney beans (non-haem)

100g (cooked)


Weetbix (non-haem)



Tofu (non-haem)



HAEM iron is absorbed by the body far more easily than NON-HAEM iron.

If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet or in general are not a big meat eater, you will need to eat more of the non-haem foods if they are your only source of iron in the diet.


Ways to help Iron absorption

-combine foods high in Vitamin C with foods that contain haem or non-haem iron. Foods high in Vitamin C include; tomatoes, capsicum and citrus fruits.

-combine sources of haem iron with non-haem iron at a meal (e.g beef and lentils)

-cook your non-haem sources to improve the amount of available iron

-avoid having tea, coffee or calcium rich foods during or directly after eating iron rich foods


Iron supplements and high Iron levels

More and more we are seeing clients taking iron supplements because they are feeling lethargic. Now while being low in iron could be the reason (although being lethargic can also be a symptom of high iron), it really needs to be determined through a blood test with your GP. If you are low in Iron then a supplement may be prescribed and your levels monitored through regular tests. But self diagnosing and taking supplements when you don't need them can have serious consequences. Did you know that too much iron can actually be toxic? Haemochromotsis is a condition where excessive iron stores can lead to damage of the liver, heart and pancreas.

Updated 2:38pm, Thursday 15 September 2016

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