IRON: Functions, Sources + Tips for Absorption

Iron dietary sources Eli Brecher Nutrition

Iron dietary sources Eli Brecher Nutrition

Why is iron important?

  • Iron is a mineral that has many roles in the body (watch my video about iron on YouTube).
  • Iron is important for making haemoglobin: a protein contained in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body.
  • Iron also plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system (your natural defence system).
  • A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.

How much iron do we need?

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron depends on various factors, including your age and gender.

How much iron Eli Brecher Nutrition

What foods contain iron? 

We can get iron from our diets by consuming a range of foods. 

It is well-known that red meat is a good source of iron. Wondering how can to get iron in your diet if you don’t eat red meat? This is a common question, but rest assured – there are an abundance of plant-based food sources that offer iron 💪 ⁠

Here are 8 foods that are rich in iron – try to incorporate a mix of these throughout the week, including both animal-based (haem) iron and plant-based (non-haem) iron.

  1. Red meat
  2. Kidney beans
  3. Chickpeas
  4. Nuts
  5. Spinach
  6. Peas
  7. Brown rice
  8. Tofu⁠

Iron dietary sources Eli Brecher Nutrition

Tips to increase iron absorption

There is often so much more to think about than simply whether you are consuming enough of a certain vitamin or mineral. Here are 3 simple ways you can optimise your iron absorption! ⁠

👉🏼 Avoid drinking tea & coffee with meals

– Polyphenols in these drinks inhibit absorption, so try avoid drinking these within 1 hour of meals.

👉🏼 Eat foods rich in vitamin C to boost iron absorption

– Vitamin C can be found in oranges, kiwi, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli and potatoes.

👉🏼 Calcium inhibits iron absorption

– Calcium hinders iron absorption so avoid having high calcium foods within half an hour of iron-rich foods if you can.

Iron absorption tips Eli Brecher Nutrition

Why might someone need iron supplements?

If someone is deficient in iron, they may require a supplement. Those at the highest risk of become iron deficient include women of childbearing age (particularly if they experience heavy periods), premature infants and people with chronic health conditions including coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis.

What to consider before taking iron supplements

You should only take iron supplements if you have had your iron levels tested and have been advised that they are below the normal range. Too much iron can cause iron overload and can be harmful to organs including the liver and heart.

It is also important to be aware that iron supplements may affect the digestive system and cause side effects including nausea, constipation and diarrhoea.


If you’re suffering from iron supplement side effects…

Taking iron supplements with food, rather than on an empty stomach, can help reduce gastrointestinal issues – although it can also reduce the amount of iron that is absorbed.

If you experience side effects, it’s worth trying a different form of iron supplements, as certain forms are more gentle on the stomach. For those suffering with constipation from iron supplements, ensure you are drinking plenty of water with each iron supplement and try separating your dose into three smaller daily doses, rather than one large dose.

It’s also important to eat enough fibre (from vegetables, fruit, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds and whole grains) and to get in some movement everyday in order to stimulate healthy bowel movements. This does not have to be intense exercise – a walk and a stretch will do the job!


How much iron is in different food sources?

I’ve created a reference guide to help give you a better idea of how much iron is found per 100g of different foods.

Iron Dietary Sources Eli Brecher Nutrition


You can watch the accompanying YouTube video to this blog post.


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