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Complete List of Foods That Help Absorb Iron

author image Rebecca Slayton
Rebecca Slayton is a Registered Dietitian and has worked in the nutrition field since 2006. Slayton received the 2005 Betty Feezor Scholarship Award for her studies. She holds a Master of Science in food and nutrition from East Carolina University.
Complete List of Foods That Help Absorb Iron
Oranges are rich in Vitamin C. Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Iron absorption depends on several factors, including how much you get of certain nutrients. This mineral is responsible for supplying oxygen to all your organs and tissues with the help of the protein hemoglobin. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, decreased mental functioning and, for expectant mothers, small or premature babies. To stay healthy, eat plenty of iron-rich foods along with foods rich in vitamin C to enhance absorption.

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Iron Absorption

Tea contain the substances to absorb iron.
Tea contain the substances to absorb iron. Photo Credit: Image Source White/Image Source/Getty Images

Both animal and plant foods contain iron, and absorption depends on the specific form of iron. The body absorbs heme iron, found in animal products, more efficiently. Nonheme iron from plant sources is better absorbed when paired with vitamin C rich foods. Foods containing calcium, tannins, phytates and polyphenols decrease the absorption of nonheme iron. Tea, coffee, milk, legumes and whole grains contain these substances.

Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits.
Citrus fruits. Photo Credit: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Eating one orange provides you with 70 milligrams of vitamin C. Fortified cereals, breakfast meats and eggs are all breakfast foods rich in iron. For better iron absorption, add an orange or orange juice to your breakfast. Three-fourths cup of orange juice provides 93 milligrams of vitamin C. If you are taking an iron supplement, take it with juice for more efficient absorption. Grapefruits or grapefruit juice are other excellent sources of vitamin C.

Vegetable Support

Red bell peppers.
Red bell peppers. Photo Credit: abramova/iStock/Getty Images

One of the richest sources of vitamin C is a red pepper. One red pepper contains 95 milligrams of vitamin C. Tomatoes, tomato juice, broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers, cabbage, collards, turnips, potatoes and brussels sprouts are vitamin-C-rich vegetables. These vegetables can be added to your meal as a side dish when serving meat that is high in iron. You may also try tossing these vegetables into entrees such as in pastas, casseroles, soups or salads to help absorb iron.

Other Fruits

Strawberry and kiwi fruit.
Strawberry and kiwi fruit. Photo Credit: valentinarr/iStock/Getty Images

Fresh strawberries, kiwifruit and cantaloupe are fruits rich in vitamin C. A half-cup of sliced strawberries contains 49 milligrams of vitamin C. Fruit juices offer a good source of vitamin C thanks to the addition of ascorbic acid through fortification. Check the label for vitamin C content. Incorporating fruit and fruit juice into your meals is a simple way to enhance absorption.

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