Your body needs both calcium and iron to maintain optimum health -- and some foods, such as oysters, contain both. Consuming calcium and iron in a way that ensures adequate absorption, however, can be tricky. According to an editorial in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," calcium in amounts present in many meals hinders your body's absorption of iron. For the most efficient iron assimilation, it's best to restrict calcium intake with meals that contain most of your dietary iron.
What is Calcium?
Calcium, the most abundant mineral in your body, is not only crucial for the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, but also for the proper functioning of your heart, nerves, muscles and other body systems. For calcium to be fully absorbed and effectively used, your body needs other nutrients such as vitamins D and K, and magnesium and phosphorus. Adequate calcium intake helps prevent or control conditions like osteoporosis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day for women ages 19 to 50 and 1,200 milligrams a day for women 51 and older. The daily recommendation for men ages 19 to 70 is 1,000 milligrams and 1,200 milligrams for men over 70.
Low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt, milk and cheeses, such as Parmesan, Romano, cheddar, mozzarella and feta are excellent sources of dietary calcium. Tofu and nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts, are also good sources of calcium. Vegetables, such as dark leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard, and seafood, including oysters, sardines and canned salmon, are good calcium-rich additions to your diet. Calcium-fortified foods, such as juices, soy milk, rice milk and cereals, can also provide valuable calcium.
What is Iron?
Iron is a mineral necessary for making new cells, amino acids, hormones and neurotransmitters. In fact, every cell in your body contains iron. Hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen from the lungs to tissues throughout your body, and myoglobin, which carries and stores oxygen for your muscles, contain iron. The Institute of Medicine recommends 18 milligrams of iron a day for women ages 19 to 50 and 8 milligrams a day for women over age 51. For men ages 19 and older, the daily recommended iron intake is 8 milligrams.
Dried beans and peas are the richest plant-based sources of iron. Seafood, including oysters, clams, shrimp and tuna, is also an excellent source of dietary iron. Lean meat and poultry, tofu, fortified breakfast cereals and produce, such as potatoes, spinach, dried apricots and dried peaches, also provide dietary iron. Combining iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries or broccoli, can increase your body's iron absorption.