Good Nutrition

Iron

Iron is needed for healthy blood, giving us energy and for brain development in babies. Iron is found in a number of foods, including red meat. In general, the redder the meat, the higher the iron content.

Iron is found in two forms: haem and non haem. Haem iron is absorbed more easily by the body and is found in beef, lamb, liver, kidney, pork, poultry and seafood. Only about 5% of non-haem iron is absorbed and is found in vegetables, bread, breakfast cereals, beans, eggs and fruit.

Red meat can help to increase absorption, boosting the use of non-haem iron by up to four times. Vitamin C has a similar effect. Eating a combination of foods high in both haem and non-haem iron will ensure an iron-rich diet.

Sources of haem iron:

Haem iron is found only in animal products. It is easily absorbed and used by the body. About 15 35% of haem iron is absorbed, depending on iron stores. The body will absorb more haem iron if iron stores are low. In general, the redder the meat, the higher the iron content.

Sources of non-haem iron:

Non-haem iron is found in both animal and plant products. It is poorly absorbed by the body (1-7 % absorption), and is not easily used. Consumption of animal proteins (meat, fish or poultry), and vitamin C can boost the absorption of non-haem iron. Tannins in tea and coffee, phytates in wholegrain cereals, oxalates in some vegetables (eg spinach) and some types of fibre can inhibit the absorption of non-haem iron.

For more information about iron in the diet, click here.

 

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