An Iron Healthy Diet - PBM

What do I need to eat to get enough iron?

It is important to get enough iron from several different food sources. Iron comes in two forms:

Heme iron is very easily absorbed by the body. Foods with heme iron are: (from highest to lowest iron content)

  • Liver, seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp)
  • Beef, lamb, pork
  • Turkey, chicken (dark meat has more iron)
  • Fish

Non-heme iron is not as well absorbed as heme iron. Foods with non-heme iron are: (from highest to lowest iron content)

  • Black strap molasses
  • Lentils, dried beans and peas
  • Iron fortified breakfast cereals (cream of wheat, oatmeal, bran flakes)
  • Enriched whole grain breads and pasta
  • Seeds, nuts and dried fruits (pumpkin, sesame, peanuts, prunes, raisins, apricots)
  • Vegetables, especially dark green (baked potatoes with skin on, beets, spinach, broccoli, peas)
  • Fruits, sour cherries, watermelon
  • Eggs

Where can I find more information about foods high in iron?

To find more foods that are good sources of iron, visit HealthLink BC.

What can I do to get the iron from my food?

  • Eat heme iron foods. Heme iron is easier to absorb than non-heme iron. Eating heme iron helps your body to absorb non-heme iron from other foods.
  • Eat foods high in Vitamin C with your meals. Foods that contain vitamin C help your body use non-heme iron.
  • Do not have tea or coffee with your meals. Tea and coffee contain polyphenols. Polyphenols decrease the amount of non-heme iron your body can absorb.
  • Do not have calcium (pills or foods like milk and dairy products) for one hour before or two hours after iron foods or pills. Calcium can decrease iron absorption when taken at the same time as iron.