High iron foods

Appetite for Life

High iron foods

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Improve iron absorption

Iron helps carry oxygen around the body, which gives you energy and helps you stay healthy and fight illness.

People of all ages need to eat foods high in iron every day, along with a variety of foods from each of the five food groups. Try these ideas to boost your iron intake.

Iron in animal foods

  • Iron is found in animal foods like red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, liver and kidney.
  • Animal foods have more iron than plant foods or processed foods.
  • Iron from animal foods is absorbed the best by the body.

Iron in plant foods

  • Iron is found in plant foods such as legumes, lentils, green leafy vegetables and grain (cereal) foods.
  • Iron from plant foods is not absorbed as well as the iron from animal foods.

Boost your iron intake

  • Try to eat lean red meat, fish, chicken, legumes or lentils every day.
  • Choose a breakfast cereal with added iron (check the label).
  • Choose multigrain or wholemeal bread and pasta. Add plenty of green and leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage and brussels sprouts.

Improve iron absorption

  • Eating foods high in vitamin C with a meal can help you absorb iron more easily. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, kiwi fruit, pineapple, tomato, broccoli, brussels sprouts and capsicum.
  • Animal foods boost iron absorption from plant foods. For example, have lean meat and leafy green vegetables in the same meal.
  • Try not to drink tea or coffee with your meal, this makes it harder for your body to absorb iron.
  • Large amounts of unprocessed bran can decrease iron absorption. Limit additional bran supplements to two to three tablespoons a day.
  • Antacids and aspirin make it hard to absorb iron. Only take these when you need them and talk to your GP or pharmacist.
Step one: Eat iron rich foods, including red meat, 3-4 times a week
Eat iron rich foods such as meat, fish and poultry, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Step two: Add vitamin C when eating foods rich in iron

 Iron rich foods such as meat, fish and poultry, plus a food rich in vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin C include berries, citrus fruit, tomato or leafy greens like broccoli.

Step three: Drink tea and coffee between meals

Drink tea and coffee between meals

This general advice was accurate at the time of publication (June 2020). For more information about nutrition and your individual needs, see your GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.