Know About Iron Absorption Diet With ToneOp



Published on: 15-Mar-2023


10 min read


Updated on : 22-Jan-2024




Kajal Tharwani


Know About Iron Absorption Diet With ToneOp

Know About Iron Absorption Diet With ToneOp

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Being healthy does not mean starving yourself. It means eating the right food in the right amount! 

We all are very much aware of the importance of iron for our bodies. Iron is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body and is needed for many metabolic processes and chemical reactions. 

Most of us know about iron-rich Indian foods. However, iron deficiency is still a worldwide concern despite the abundance of iron in the earth's crust and awareness about iron-rich foods. Although iron absorption from the gastrointestinal tract is strictly controlled, excretion is limited to iron lost from skin and gastrointestinal cells and abnormal blood loss to ensure the fitness of your body. 

Table Of Contents

1. Bioavailability And Iron Absorption Diet 

2. What Are The Pools During Digestion? 

3. Dietary Factors To Improve Iron Absorption 

4. Dieititian’s Recommendation

5. The Final Say 

6. FAQs 

Bioavailability And Iron Absorption Diet 

The segment of society which is highly vulnerable to iron deficiency has high iron needs, as during growth or pregnancy. High iron loss during marked haemorrhage or excessive and frequent menstrual losses; and low iron dietary content or bioavailability. Hence, considering the bioavailability of iron while planning an iron-rich diet is essential. 

If any nutrient is not absorbed in the body, it gets either discarded or remains useless to the body. Iron absorption is the process by which the body uses iron from foods. It is also known as the bioavailability of iron in the human body.

Bioavailability factors can greatly modify the absorption of dietary iron consumed in different meals by an individual. This is because whatever we eat gets digested first and later absorbed in the body. 

What Are The Pools During Digestion Of Iron Absorption Diet?  

Studies have shown that dietary iron during digestion forms two pools: heme and non-heme. 

Heme iron is abundant in animal sources such as red meat, poultry, and fish. At the same time, non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods such as legumes, nuts, and grains. Even though humans absorb heme iron at a higher rate than non-heme iron, a significant portion of food iron is non-heme.

In some cases, iron supplements may be recommended to ensure adequate intake. Since food contains more non-heme iron and, thus, it makes a more significant contribution to the body's iron pool despite its lower absorption rate of 2% to 20%. The absorption of heme iron is influenced very little by the iron status of the subject and by the other food components in the diet, except meat which stimulates absorption.

On the other hand, the absorption of non-heme iron is markedly influenced by the subject's iron status and a significant number of dietary factors. 

Dietary Factors To Improve Iron Absorption 

Dietary Factors To improve iron Absotption

There are many dietary factors which improve the absorption of iron in the body, as discussed below. Have a look! 

1. Ascorbic Acid 

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) increases iron absorption by reducing ferric iron (Fe3+) to ferrous iron (Fe2+) in the stomach. This reaction makes the iron more soluble and accessible for the body to absorb. 

Ascorbic acid also helps increase iron uptake into the cells, which can be used for various metabolic processes. Additionally, consuming foods with a source of vitamin A, such as dark leafy greens, can also help increase iron absorption. 

Hence, consuming iron-rich foods with food sources of vitamin C, such as red meat, poultry, and fish, with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and broccoli, can be very beneficial.

2. Vitamin A 

Vitamin A helps improve iron absorption by increasing iron uptake into the cells, where it can be used for various metabolic processes. It also helps to increase the production of a protein called transferrin, which helps to transport iron throughout the body to where it is needed. 

Also, studies suggest that vitamin A and beta-carotene form a complex with iron that keeps it soluble in the intestinal lumen and prevents phytates and polyphenols' inhibitory effect on iron absorption. 

Clubbing iron-rich foods with vitamin A sources such as dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, cantaloupe, apricots, eggs, and dairy products. Other sources of vitamin A include liver, cod liver oil, and fortified cereals.

3. Protein 

Protein helps to improve iron absorption by increasing the production of a protein called transferrin, which helps to transport iron throughout the body to where it is needed. That is why eating iron-rich foods with a source of protein, such as lean red meat, can help increase iron absorption.

4. Dietary Fibre 

Fibre does not directly help improve iron absorption, but it reduces the amount of other dietary components inhibiting iron absorption. For example, dietary fibre can help to reduce the number of tannins, phytates, oxalates, calcium and zinc, which can bind to iron and inhibit its absorption. 

Calcium and zinc can also interfere with iron absorption by competing with it for absorption sites in the intestine. However, the effect of compounds responsible for the inhibition in purified form (phytate, fibre, phosphoproteins) depends on chemical form and concentration. 

Hence meal combinations and the timing of different food items affects iron absorption. Some meal combinations that can improve iron absorption include lean red meat with a side of bell peppers, dark leafy greens with eggs, oatmeal with strawberries, pomegranate with lemonade, tossed salad sprinkled with lemon juice, eating jaggery after meals, etc. 

Dieititian’s Recommendation

It is highly recommended to consume iron-rich foods alongside vitamin C-rich foods to enhance iron absorption. Iron is more readily absorbed from heme sources, such as meat and seafood, than from non-heme sources, like beans and leafy greens. 

However, pairing non-heme iron sources with vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, and broccoli, can improve absorption. 

Conversely, consuming calcium-rich foods simultaneously with iron-rich foods can inhibit iron absorption. It is also advisable to avoid consuming tea or coffee with meals, as these can reduce iron absorption. 

Overall, a balanced and varied diet that includes both heme and non-heme iron sources and vitamin C-rich foods can help optimise iron absorption.

-Dietitian Aditi Upadhyay

The Final Say 

Optimising iron absorption through dietary choices can be important in maintaining adequate iron levels and preventing iron deficiency anaemia. 

A diet that includes both heme and non-heme iron sources and vitamin C-rich foods, proteins, good dietary fibre and essential fatty acids can help enhance iron absorption. 

During meals, avoiding calcium-rich foods and beverages, such as tea and coffee, can also improve iron absorption. By making simple adjustments to our food choices and meal planning strategies, we can ensure that our bodies get the iron they need to function properly.


1. Why is iron absorption important? 

Iron is a vital nutrient that is crucial in transporting oxygen in the blood and supporting immune function. Insufficient iron intake can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, which can cause fatigue, weakness, and other health issues.

2. What are some iron-rich foods? 

 Iron-rich foods include red meat, poultry, seafood, beans and lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, fortified cereals, and some dried fruits.

3. What are some vitamin C-rich foods? 

Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, strawberries, guava, kiwi, mango, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Indian gooseberry and tomatoes.

4. Can supplements be used to improve iron absorption? 

Iron supplements can be useful for individuals who have difficulty meeting their iron needs through diet alone. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen, as excessive iron intake can be harmful.

5. Who can benefit from an iron absorption diet? 

An iron absorption diet can benefit individuals at risk of iron deficiency, including vegetarians and vegans, individuals with heavy menstrual bleeding, and pregnant or lactating women. It can also be helpful for individuals with certain medical conditions that affect iron absorption or utilisation.

About ToneOp

ToneOp is a platform dedicated to improving and maintaining your good health through a comprehensive range of goal-oriented diet plans and recipes. It also intends to provide value-added content to our consumers.  

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